In a six-week span we’ve had four of the best golfing stories for years. First was Hideki Matsuyama’s history-making Masters triumph, followed a week later by then 47-year-old Stewart Cink, with son Raegan on the bag, capturing the RBC Heritage by an amazing four shots.
A fortnight ago, there were the highly-emotional scenes of England’s 48-year-old Richard Bland’s BetFred British Masters triumph and then eight days later a near 51-year-old Phil Mickelson won a sixth major championship, in the process becoming the oldest winner of a men’s major.
While both Matsuyama’s and Mickelson’s victories were historical and Cink’s remarkable, Bland’s efforts in tasting a first success in his 478th European Tour tournament was truly outstanding and to win at the famed Belfry with his coach, Tim Barter also reporting on the event for SKY Sports Golf was the stuff of dreams.
The TV pictures of Bland and Barter embracing had even the strongest of golf followers welling-up and reaching for a tissue such was the overflow of emotions. Bland returns to competition at this week’s newly-named Made in Himmerland, formerly Made in Denmark, still very much on a high and still coping with the outpouring of congratulations following his play-off triumph.
“It’s nice to get back out. First three or four days was a bit of a whirlwind, mixed in with a hangover as well, but it’s nice to get back to work and I’m looking forward to it,” said Bland.
“I note there are a few new tees out there. I didn’t play here the first year which was similar to how it’s going to play this week. Obviously it’s going to play very long, it’s very wet out there so it’s going to suit the longer hitter. But the Belfry played long and I did alight there so we’ll see how it goes.
“Also, it’s quite nice that I had the whole week to take it all in and enjoy it. Even though everything that was going on in the aftermath was great, once that adrenaline goes out of you, you do feel a little flat so I think going straight to another tournament would have been quite difficult.
“I didn’t realise how much the whole media side takes it out of you, so I haven’t done an awful lot of work but sometimes that’s not a bad thing, I need to conserve a bit of energy as well. This is going to be a tough walk around here for four days so it’s just about feeling your way back in but I know I’m playing well so I don’t see any reason why I can’t do well this week.
“I was completely overwhelmed by it really. At first you think it’s just a guy winning a European Tour event. OK it’s his first one and it’s taken a while but the amount of messages that I got – obviously from some legends of the game and high profile people in other areas of life.
“The outpouring of messages I got from all corners of the globe, from America, from South America, from Australia, from the Far East just saying what an inspiration it was to them and they’re going to carry on trying to achieve what they want to achieve in life. To read those kinds of messages was completely overwhelming to be honest and there were so many I just couldn’t reply to all of them – I’d be replying until Christmas. It was incredible and if it helps one person achieve their dream then good luck to them.”
Bland’s win earned him a full Tour exemption to the end of 2023 when he’ll be aged 50. Victory on the Ryder Cup venue also put Bland atop of a three-event ‘US Open qualifying series’ where the top-10 on a mini money list, including the BetFred British Masters along with this week’s Made in Himmerland and concluding with next week’s Porsche European Open, will each earn, and if not already exempt, US Open tee times.
And Bland’s hoping to be one of the 10 so he can at least walk-up to Mickelson and exchange pleasantries as to what each achieved in the space of just eight days.
“Seeing Phil win last week just shows everybody who plays now is capable of winning no matter what age,” said Bland. “I think last week at the PGA Championship they’re all capable of winning and Phil showed that. You don’t become not good enough overnight with the quality Phil has, and it shows age doesn’t matter and in some respect I’ve done that too this year, Westwood has done it, Stewart Cink has done it.
“I guess it’s all happened in such a short space of time, maybe in some sense it was a case of ‘why can’t I do it if they’ve done it’, it does give you that extra sense of belief for sure. But to see Phil win a Major four or five years past when anyone else has done is incredible. Hopefully I can see him at Torrey Pines and shake his hand.”