Richard Bland holds nerve to land first European Tour title at 478th attempt
An emotional Richard Bland defeated Guido Migliozzi in a play-off to win his first European Tour title at the 478th attempt after a dramatic finish to the Betfred British Masters.
Bland parred the first extra hole at The Belfry after Migliozzi three-putted from long range to become the oldest first-time winner in European Tour history.
The 48-year-old had carded a superb final round of 66 to set the clubhouse target on 13 under par, but looked in danger of cruelly being denied victory by the fast-finishing Migliozzi.
Birdies on the 15th and 16th gave Migliozzi a share of the lead and he then found the green in two on the par-five 17th, but missed from five feet for birdie after lipping out from long range for an eagle.
Migliozzi’s tee shot on the 18th plugged in the wet grass on the edge of a bunker but, after receiving a free drop, the 24-year-old hit his approach into a greenside bunker and got up and down to force extra holes.
The players returned to the 18th and it was advantage Migliozzi after a superb drive left him 50 yards closer to the green, but after both players hit indifferent approaches it was Migliozzi who charged his birdie attempt five feet past the hole and missed the return.
Bland, who made just one bogey all week, said: “It’s probably going to take a few days to sink it. It’s what I’ve worked for for 20 years. I’ve had a few close calls and I assume someone up there was looking down on me quite favourably today.
“A big incentive for me this year was to get to 500 events and this will allow me to do that, which I’ll be hugely proud of.”
Bland admitted that the lowest point of his career came when he lost his card in 2018, a situation exacerbated by his brother Heath suffering from a life-threatening illness which saw him placed in an induced coma for a month at the start of the year.
“This is one for him as well,” Bland added. “It took a lot of guts for me to go back to the Challenge Tour at 46 years old when you’re probably old enough to be most of the guys’ father.
“I wasn’t there to make friends – although I did and it was great – but it was purely get your head down, get the job down and back to where I felt like I belong. I knew there was unfinished business out here and I’m just pleased that I proved I can do it.
“I loved it down the stretch out there. I had a one-shot lead with six holes to play and hit the shots when I needed to and that’s a huge confidence boost going forwards.
“Who knows? Maybe it’s like buses. None come around for ages and then two come along in quick succession.”
England’s Eddie Pepperell had taken a one-shot lead into the final round, but the 2018 champion could only manage a closing 73 to fall back into a tie for 11th with tournament host Danny Willett.
Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre, the top-ranked player in the field, held a share of the lead after birdies on the second and third, but the world number 45 eventually signed for a 71 to finish joint eighth with compatriot Calum Hill and Edoardo Molinari.
MacIntyre admitted he was affected by a stroke of bad luck on the seventh, where his tee shot clattered into the pin and bounced back off the green.
“I kind of got rocked on the par three,” the left-hander said. “You need bits of luck to go your way to win golf tournaments and I seem to see that sort of thing, smashing a pin, happen to me a few times when I’m in contention.
“It was so close to going straight in the cup and it hit right at the bottom of the flag.”
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