Written by
Mark Lamport-Stokes
Oct 13 2023
- 3 min
Bland Jeddah Bynder

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia – An in-form Richard Bland and captain Martin Kaymer were the shining lights for Cleeks GC at LIV Golf Jeddah presented by ROSHN, helping lift the team into a tie for fifth after the first round at a breezy Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.

Englishman Bland, who has been a model of consistency for the all-European Cleeks this year, pocketed three birdies on the way to a flawless 3-under 67 while German Kaymer also went bogey-free as he opened with a 68 in the regular-season finale.

Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, who arrived in Jeddah right on the bubble as the last player in the Open Zone (25th-44th) in the individual standings, opened with a 1-over 71 and Ulsterman Graeme McDowell carded a 73.

Non-captain players who finish 45th or lower in points at the end of LIV Golf Jeddah will be relegated out of the league, but will have a chance to regain a spot at the Promotion Tournament in December. Ironically, Wiesberger ended Day 1 in Jeddah in the 45th spot, while his captain Kaymer, who had entered the week ranked 49th, replacing him in 44th place.

As has been the case for much of this season, the straight-hitting Bland was the standout player for the Cleeks at Royal Greens. After parring his first 12 holes, he birdied the par-5 18th and then the par-4 first before picking up his final shot of the day on his last hole, the par-4 fifth.

Heading into Jeddah, Bland occupied the third spot in fairways hit this season with a percentage of 68.26. Although he ranked only joint 26th in this category after the opening round in Jeddah (hitting just seven), he did shine in greens in regulation where he ranked joint fourth (with 14).

The 50-year-old from Burton-on-Trent also did well in scrambling, ending the round ranked joint first in this category at 100% (4 for 4). Kaymer was also joint top in this area, even more impressively going 7 for 7.

The top 24 in individual points will be guaranteed spots in next year's LIV Golf League and Bland arrived in Jeddah with a high probability of securing Lock Zone status for next season. After finishing 6th, 3rd, 11th and 9th in his last four LIV Golf starts, he currently sits 20th in the season-long standings.

"I've played pretty solid most of the year," said Bland. "I've just got to plot it along and take my chances when they come."

As a team, the Cleeks will have been heartened by their collective start in Jeddah. This season, overall, has been a frustrating one for them and they have placed in the bottom two spots six times in the team standings.

However, signs of improvement were evident over the last three months with finishes of 6th, 7th, 9th and 9th in their last four LIV Golf starts. After Day 1 in Jeddah, they sit encouragingly in a tie for fifth with Torque GC at 4 under.