GREENBRIER RECAP: BLAND SHINES AS CLEEKS FOCUS ON ‘THE ONLY WAY IS UP’
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – As the Cleeks prepared for LIV Golf Greenbrier, they could well have taken a cue from the No. 1 1988 single by British pop singer Yazz: "The Only Way is Up.”
Heading into the 10th tournament of the season, the all-European lineup occupied the bottom 12th spot in the team standings and they were hungry for collective improvement.
By the time their week in West Virginia was over, the Cleeks, alas, still propped up the bottom of the standings, despite some good individual scoring during the three rounds on The Old White course.
But one member of the team was especially satisfied with his performance, and that was Englishman Richard Bland. The 50-year-old from Burton-on-Trent began the week outside the top 24 in points that are guaranteed spots for the 2024 LIV Golf League at the end of the regular season.
Fast forward to Sunday, and boosted by impressive scores of 66, 63 and 65 over the three days, Bland had soared into a tie for third place on the individual leaderboard - the best result of the season for a Cleek GC player. That lifted him from 32nd in the season-long standings to 23rd – a prized position inside the top 24.
"I've played pretty solid most of the year," said Bland, whose previous best finish this year was sixth place at LIV Golf London. "I've kind of tripped over myself a couple of times, certainly a little bit in Tulsa and very much so in Washington. I've been playing pretty good but -- you've got to stay patient and let it happen. It kind of happened in London and it was nice to bring it here, as well."
Bland, who at 48 became the European Tour's oldest first-time winner with a playoff victory at the 2021 British Masters, capped his week at Greenbrier with a sizzling, seven-birdie 63 in the second round.
"I've just got to keep hitting good shots," he said after a display that rocketed him from joint 15th overnight into a tie for third. "It's going to be low scoring (in the final round), so try and stay aggressive as much as you can. Just go from there, really.
"I love to compete no matter what. Yeah, I'm at a disadvantage length-wise. I know that. But there's other places, other areas of my game I can be better than them. It's the old cliche, you've just got to focus on yourself, one shot at a time, and hopefully put another good one together."
A closing 65 earned Bland outright third place while the next best Cleek GC player was Austria's Bernd Wiesberger, who placed 13th after scores of 66, 67 and 65. Graeme McDowell (68, 68 and 67) ended up 29th and team captain Martin Kaymer finished 43rd after bouncing back from an opening 73 with 67 and 69.
As the Cleeks prepare for the 11th tournament of the season, LIV Golf Bedminster, they are certain to be sticking to be the same refrain: "The Only Way is Up.”