‘I’m a realist’: Pro offers most candid explanation yet regarding LIV Golf participation
Forty-nine-year-old Englishman Richard Bland made headlines last year when he won the 2021 British Masters. It was a great feel-good story, as it marked Bland’s first-ever win in 478 starts.
Since then, Bland’s career has been trending up. He’s notched nine additional top-9 finishes, is currently ranked No. 58 in the world and is in the field for this week’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills, playing only the sixth major championship of his career.
Despite his resurgence, though, Bland says he’s ready to leave the Tour to play in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series, which debuts at London’s Centurion Club June 9-11.
“I am going to play,” Bland told BBC Radio Solent. “If I get banned, I get banned. Most of my career is behind me now as regards playing at the very highest level. I’m 50 years old in six months. I’m a realist. Mother Nature does tend to catch up on you. I have an opportunity to play these events and secure my future and I’d be pretty foolish to turn that down.”
The LIV Golf Invitational Series’ purse sizes have been an enticing draw for some, with $255 million up for grabs across eight tournaments. Each tournament features a limited field, meaning there’s no cut, so even last place will receive a payout of approximately $120,000 at the first event.
To play in the tournament, current PGA Tour and DP World Tour members must request a release or face disciplinary action. There were reportedly 170 entries to play in the first event’s 48-man field. The unnamed entrants reportedly include 36 players ranked inside the World Top 150, 19 in the Top 100 and six in the Top 50. Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer and Robert Garrgius are the only players other than Bland who have publicly said they requested a waiver. Those requests for PGA Tour players were denied last week, and the expectation is that the DP World Tour will follow suit.
“I haven’t been granted the release; I pretty much knew that a couple of weeks ago,” Bland told BBC Radio. “Everybody has their own opinion and are they going to play or not going to play; you can only do what’s best for yourself. I understand some people might not like that but it’s an opportunity for me to make the next stage of my life very comfortable and how can I turn that down?
“I plan to play those events,” Bland asserted. “That’s the decision I’ve taken and some people will agree with it and some won’t and that’s fine.”