He tripled a senior tour salary on LIV. Now he’s contending for a senior major

richard bland swings driver at liv golf event in green shirt

Richard Bland is leading at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.

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A few years ago, Richard Bland’s career was left for dead.

He was 46 years old and on the brink, a zero-time professional winner who’d just been relegated from the DP World Tour to the Challenger Tour. At his age, Bland’s odds of getting another shot in the big leagues were next to zero. His odds of making it back to the big leagues and making something of it? Well, they were stretching the limits of the decimal point.

On Friday morning, Richard Bland awoke in a very different place. He was holding the lead at the Senior PGA Championship, topping a leaderboard of former stars like Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk after an opening-round, 7-under 64. And wildest of all? He was doing it with the knowledge that in a field full of big-time senior tour earners, he had tripled nearly all of their 2024 salaries.

For Blandy, the story begins in his 478th professional start at the 2021 Betfred British Masters, when the unthinkable happened: He won. At 48 years old he was the oldest first-time winner ever on the European Tour. The victory guaranteed him invites into the U.S. Open and PGA Championships, and a strong stretch of golf followed over the next year, which included starts on the PGA Tour and a full DP World Tour calendar.

Then, in June 2022, chaos arrived to professional golf. LIV Golf burst onto the scene with billions in funding and a mandate to hire a class of professional golfers. Bland, a pro golf lifer with little in the bank to show for it, was the ideal early target. LIV’s $20 million events offered more money than he’d ever dreamed of, and the no-cut structure protected him from the bottom falling out. The choice was easy, and before long, he was a founding member of the Cleeks.

Two years and a number of LIV starts later, an email arrived from the PGA of America’s Bob Jeffrey last May. Jeffrey wanted to know: Did Bland, then 50 and newly eligible for senior tour events, have any interest in competing in the Senior PGA Championship?

“Yeah, I got invited last year. Completely out of the blue. I wasn’t expecting it,” Bland said. “Unfortunately I couldn’t play it. Clashed with a LIV event.”

As it turned out, Bland was eligible for the tournament based on a one-time exemption given to past DP World Tour winners. The exemption was due to lapse in 2025, but when Bland saw his tournament schedule was free for the week of the tournament this year, he reached back out to the PGA of America.

“I said, ‘look, I appreciated the gesture for the invite. If it could be run to this year I would love to come play,'” Bland said. “And Bob came straight back and said, ‘we would love to have you,’ so here I am.”

That’s how Bland arrived at Harbor Shores Golf Club in southern Michigan for this week’s Senior PGA, and after a brilliant start to the week, it’s also how he finds himself near the top of the leaderboard.

“I know Seth Waugh very well. He was my Dunhill partner few moons ago now. So I saw Seth last night. You know, I thanked him for it,” Bland said. “Yeah, I’m very grateful for the invite and hopefully I can do something with it.”

We don’t know for sure how Blandy’s fellow senior tour competitors feel about the whole ordeal. The 51-year-old Cleek entered Friday morning with $1.9 million in earnings for the season, triple all but five players on the Champions Tour in 2024.

Regardless, Bland will enter the weekend the highest-paid player in a field of those competing for a piece of the Senior PGA’s $3.5 million winner’s purse. And with a good shot of holding the 36-hole lead come Friday evening, he might just be the favorite of the field.

Not bad for a guy on the brink.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.

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