Richard Bland claimed an emotional first European Tour victory in his 478th appearance after the English veteran overcame young Italian Guido Migliozzi in a play-off to win the Betfred British Masters hosted by Danny Willett.
In a dramatic final day on the famous Brabazon Course at The Belfry, Bland showed incredible bravery twice over to clinch the victory – first at the 72nd hole where he holed a monster birdie putt to finish 13 under par courtesy of a six under 66.
Then, after Migliozzi had forced a play-off thanks to a four under 68, Bland once again showed his mettle. Having found a tricky lie from his drive in the first play-off hole, the 48-year-old pulled off a stunning five wood approach to leave a makeable two-putt.
Migliozzi, 50 yards further forward on the fairway from his own drive, proceeded to push his second shot to the right of the green. Bland rolled his birdie deftly to within three feet while his Italian counterpart raced his own birdie putt past the hole on the middle tier of the iconic green.
When Migliozzi missed his par putt, Bland knocked in for his four and for a career-defining triumph after numerous near-missed down the years, moving him to 14th in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex in the process.
The victory also puts him in pole position for a chance to earn a place in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in June. The top ten aggregate Race to Dubai points earners (not otherwise exempt) at the Betfred British Masters hosted by Danny Willet, Made in HimmerLand presented by FREJA and Porsche European Open will earn a place in the third Major Championship of the year.
Tournament host Danny Willett capped off a hugely successful week with a two under 70 and a share of 11th spot, having also raised £19,000 for Prostate Cancer UK – after title sponsors Betfred pledged to donate £1,000 to the charity for every birdie the former Masters Champion made during the week.
Richard Bland: “It’s probably going to take a few days to sink in. It’s what I’ve worked for for 20 years. That’s what we all work for, to win out here and try and prove yourself. I’ve had a few close calls and I assume someone up there was looking down on me quite favourably today. It was just my day.
“I kept telling myself on the last I thought 13 under would be a really good score. There was maybe two or three guys on 11. Especially if the weather stayed how it was. We played the last three holes in the worst of the weather as well. I thought if it stays like this then the par fives are playing pretty long. They’re not giveaway birdies. To hole that putt on the last, I don’t think I saw it go in. I knew it was in with about a foot to go. I think I turned to the left to celebrate before it had even gone in. I’d have looked silly if it’d missed. Fortunately it went in.
“Finally I can go off that list of most starts without a win. A big incentive for me was that I wanted to get to 500 events, this will allow me to do that, which I’ll be hugely proud of. To play 500 events out here is a pretty good career.
“Losing my card (was a low point). Losing it a couple of years ago. There were a few things going on at home, my brother was ill, so my mind wasn’t on golf for the first four or five months of the year. This is one for him as well. It took a lot of guts to go back to the Challenge Tour at 46 years old. You’re probably old enough to be most of the guys’ father. I got my head down, I’m pretty good at that. When I put my mind to something I can just get my head down and go and do it. That’s what I did.”
Danny Willett: “It’s been a great week. The guys here at the Belfry, Angus and his team, have done a great job in getting this golf course as good as it is at this time of the year. Chris and the guys here have hosted us magnificently.
“The event here last year was a great week with everything going on and I think the Betfred British Masters has shown its true colours this week. The weather has helped us and we’ve got what we wanted, it’s going to be a tight finish down the stretch with a couple of guys in it.
“It is a good feeling to raise the money for charity. I tried to get that eagle on 17 for a cheeky little bonus. I don’t think anyone’s had a hole-in-one which is a shame, but £19,000 raised for Prostate Cancer UK is very generous that Betfred have offered to donate that.”
Robert MacIntyre: “At the start of the week I would have taken that but not today, not the way I was playing. I’m just disappointed. I got rocked on the par three, although I made par. You need bits of luck to go your way in golf tournaments and that is just – I seem to do it a few times when I’m in contention, smash a pin, but I’m hitting it great, I’m playing great but I just need a bit of luck.
“On ten, my ball was stuck on a twig before it ran into the bunker. It’s just wee things that need to go your way and today they didn’t go for me. It was what I was looking for to play well here, but it’s going to take the journey to the States to reflect on it.
“I’m disappointed not to put up more of a challenge in the end but I can’t be disappointed. My iron play was brilliant this week, I felt like I’m actually hit my numbers, even on 18 there the wind puffed up and the two of us came to the decision it was a six iron. Disappointed with the line it took because we went straight at it but I ended up with three at the end so a good way to finish.”