Bland tied for lead at Senior PGA Championship

football24 May 2024 06:00| © Reuters
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Richard Bland © Getty Images

Playing in his first senior event of any kind, Englishman Richard Bland shares the 18-hole lead at a major championship.

Bland, a member of LIV Golf, and Australian Richard Green are tied atop the leaderboard at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship after shooting 7-under 65s on Thursday at Harbour Shores Resort in Benton Harbour, Mich.

The leaders hold a two-shot edge over Steve Stricker, Scott Dunlap, Jeff Schmid, Canadian Mike Weir and South Korea's KJ Choi at 5-under 66.

Bland joined LIV for its inaugural campaign in 2022, one year after he became the oldest player to win a DP World Tour event at 48. He told reporters Thursday that he received a Senior PGA Championship invite "out of the blue" last year.

"I got an email from (PGA of America official) Bob Jeffrey," said Bland, now 51. "Unfortunately I couldn't play it. Clashed with a LIV event.

"And then when I looked at the schedule this year, I saw that it was a free week, so I kind of reached out and said, ‘Look, I appreciated the gesture for the invite. If it could be run to this year I would love to come play.' And Bob came straight back and said, we would love to have you, so here I am."

Bland is trying to make the most of his opportunity. He started Thursday's round on the back nine, birdied Nos. 11 and 12 and holed an eagle at the par-5 15th. He dialed up three more birdies the rest of the way without a bogey.

"When I got here I kind of felt it sort of the lends itself to my strength," Bland said. "You got to drive it good to give yourself then the opportunities to hit your iron shots close to the flag. Greens are firming up a little bit. I managed to do that today."

Green, 53, was 4 under through five holes after he chased two birdies with an eagle at the par-5 fifth. He bogeyed the next hole, but it was his only miscue of the day, soon smoothed over by a three-birdie run at Nos. 9-11. His last birdie came at No 15.

"I hit a great drive down 5 and left myself about 250 yards to the flag I think I had, something like that," Green said of his eagle. "I knew my hybrid carries around the high 220s.

"Hit it just perfect and just shaped it in there nicely and it was tracking towards the hole. I think it ran across the edge of the hole and finished about maybe seven feet past the hole; then hit a really nice putt and made it."

Green did most of his winning in Europe and Australia during his career. He has yet to win an event of any kind on the PGA Champions Tour.

Green said players "always got to watch out for" Stricker, the defending champion who has seven senior majors to his name.

Stricker had seven birdies through 15 holes before a double bogey at the par-4 16th kept him from being an 18-hole co-leader.

"You have to commit to a lot of things out here and a lot of shots that may make you feel a little uncomfortable," Stricker said. "So I did that for the most part. Put a bad swing on at 16. Hit it in the penalty area. And then really should have been a bogey at worst, but messed up the second shot there, too."

Tied for eighth at 4-under 67 are Brian Gay, Stewart Cink, Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, Fijian Vijay Singh and Japan's Katsumasa Miyamoto.