LIV pro wins second-straight senior major, credits LIV for improved play (2024)

LIV pro wins second-straight senior major, credits LIV for improved play (1)

LIV pro Richard Bland may not be playing four-day tournaments all that often anymore, but that didn’t seem to hurt him in an event that extended to five days.

After weather forced the completion of the last eight holes of the final round at the U.S. Senior Open to Monday, Bland made up a three-stroke deficit to Hiroyuki Fujita in four holes at Newport (R.I.) Country Club. Bland then took the lead for the first time in the championship with a birdie at 15, gave it away on 18 and then prevailed on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff, which was required after Bland and Fujita had tied in a two-hole aggregate playoff.

It’s Bland’s second straight senior major title in what was just his second PGA Tour Champions start. The Englishman, who was a founding member of a LIV Golf team, earned a spot in the Senior PGA Championship, in May, as a former DP World Tour winner and fired a final-round 63 to win at Harbor Shores. While Bland was denied status on the PGA Tour Champions due to his LIV affiliation, his win did earn him an exemption into this week’s U.S. Senior Open.

“Your first two senior tournaments to be majors, and to come out on top is — I was just hoping going into the PGA that I was good enough to contend,” Bland said afterward. “I hadn’t played against these guys.”

Bland credited his time on the LIV circuit for his success in his two senior appearances.

“I’m a way better golfer than I was back then, but I think that’s the caliber of players that I’m playing against on LIV,” Bland said. “To play against Bryson, who won just the other week at Pinehurst, to play against him, to play against Jon Rahm, Cam Smith, D.J., Brooks, they’re the best players in the world. I don’t care what the world ranking says.

“If I’m going to compete with those guys, I have to bring my game. I have to. I can’t bring my ‘C’ game, and it won’t stack up against those. It just elevates my game, and I think it’s done that unbelievably over the last three years. It’s just made me a better player.”

Bland (and, presumably, his LIV employers) will now need to decide whether he will go for a third straight senior major at the Senior Open Championship at Carnoustie or play in LIV Golf’s UK event that same weekend. Bland win at Newport also earned him a spot in the 2025 U.S. Open at Oakmont.

Bland shot into contention with three birdies in a row to start his final round and added another one before play was halted due to severe storms Sunday afternoon.

He was still down three strokes to Fujita who had been playing steady golf all week before he restarted play Monday with three bogeys in five holes to drop from 16 under to 13 under.

At the same time, Bland pounced with back-to-back birdies on the 14th and 15th holes to take a one-shot lead.

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Things got interesting at Newport 18th hole.

Playing a group ahead of Fujita, Bland hit what he thought was a perfect drive on the long uphill par-4, but a strong hurting breeze downed the ball in a cross bunker. He could advance his ball only into the rough and then airmailed the green with his third shot. He did well to make an eight-foot putt for bogey to post 13 under.

Meanwhile, Fujita, one of the shortest drivers in the field, had found the 18th fairway but was more than 235 yards away on the uphill, into-the-wind par-4. The 466-yard finisher at Newport was playing beastly with two-thirds of the field who played it in regulation Monday making bogey.

From an upslope just left of the bunker, Fujita put everything he had into a 5-wood and flew it onto the green, much to the broadcast crew’s amazement. He two-putted for par to force a two-hole aggregate playoff, his birdie-try tracking most of the way before just coming up short.

Hiroyuki Fujita was THAT CLOSE to a birdie to win the U.S. Senior Open.

We're heading to a playoff between him and Richard Bland on Golf Channel and Peaco*ck. pic.twitter.com/CNySsWxD5f

— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) July 1, 2024

After both players parred the 10th and 18th holes in the playoff, they headed to 18 once more for sudden death. Bland and Fujita both missed the green and failed to get up and down, leading to a second sudden death hole back on the 18th hole — and the fourth time overall they’d played the closer.

This time, Bland cleared the cross bunker with his drive while Fujita pulled his drive and had to lay up. Fujita’s lay-up gave him a good angle and it looked like he might have had the advantage after Bland pulled his second shot into the left greenside bunker.

But after Fujita’s pitch came up about 15 feet short, Bland slammed the door shot with a bunker shot that one-hopped into the flagstick, nearly going into the hole twice, before settling right next to the cup.

WHAT A SHOT! 😱

Richard Bland's clutch bunker shot en route to victory! pic.twitter.com/G3sbdg6jXJ

— USGA (@USGA) July 1, 2024

“When everything’s on the line, you’ve always got to think that he’s going to hole that putt,” Bland said. “Obviously it does creep into your mind, right, if I get this up-and-down there’s a good chance that I’m U.S. Open champion. So, yeah, but I just wanted to be just fully committed to it. I didn’t want to kind of just hit the sort of like duff and run shot. It was one that, right, I can be aggressive with this. And even if it pitched two, three feet past the hole, I probably knew it was going to spin.”

Fujita’s last-gasp chance to tie and force another hole looked good again, but just rolled around the high lip.

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LIV pro wins second-straight senior major, credits LIV for improved play (3)

Jack Hirsh

Golf.com Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at jack.hirsh@golf.com.

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LIV pro wins second-straight senior major, credits LIV for improved play (2024)

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