LIV pro wins Senior PGA but gets denied customary PGA Tour Champions exemption

LIV pro Richard Bland is presented with 2024 Senior PGA Championship trophy

Richard Bland pulled off a victory in his senior debut at the 2024 Senior PGA Championship.

Ryan Lochhead/PGA of America via Getty Images

Typically, the winner of the Senior PGA Championship, one of the senior tour’s five annual majors, gets a one-year exemption onto the PGA Tour Champions circuit. That is unless most of your playing time is spent with LIV Golf.

That’s the situation Richard Bland finds himself in this morning. And it all started with a truly improbable victory.

Bland was a founding member of LIV Golf’s Cleeks team, riding an inspired stretch of golf and a DP World Tour win in 2021 to a spot on the upstart tour in 2022.

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After Bland turned 50 last year, the age when a pro becomes eligible to compete on the senior circuit, the PGA of America came calling, offering Bland a spot in the 2023 Senior PGA Championship. Despite his LIV credentials, past DP World Tour winners are awarded limited exemptions into the Senior PGA.

Bland couldn’t play last year, but when this season rolled around he had an open spot on his schedule the week of the 2024 Senior PGA at Harbor Shores Golf Club in Michigan. So he contacted the PGA to see if he could still play, and just like that he was in the field.

Then Bland opened with a 64 and bested that tally in Sunday’s final round with an eight-under 63 to earn a three-shot victory. It was not just Bland’s first senior win, but his first-career start in a senior event.

Most players in his position would earn a whole lot more senior starts as a result of their accomplishment. And Bland did earn a few, including spots in next year’s Senior PGA and in at least one more 2024 senior major, the U.S. Senior Open.

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But the Senior PGA and U.S. Senior Open are not owned and operated by the PGA Tour Champions, much the like the PGA Championship and U.S. Open are not run by the PGA Tour. When it comes to the PGA Tour Champions regular season, Bland is still barred from playing due to his status as a LIV golfer, even after his major victory.

On Sunday evening, the PGA Tour confirmed as much in a statement, writing, “In spite of the win, because of competing in an unauthorized event by the PGA Tour, [Bland] will be ineligible for Tour-affiliated events. The PGA of America, USGA and R&A each operate based on criteria of their own.”

“I don’t know how many doors this is going to open,” Bland said after his victory on Sunday. “Obviously, I’m now committed to LIV.”

The good news for Bland? In addition to his $630,000 winner’s check for the Senior PGA, he’s made $9.8 million since joining LIV.

Kevin Cunningham

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