JEDDAH PREVIEW: BLAND IN PRIME POSITION TO SEAL LOCK ZONE STATUS FOR 2024
KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia – Richard Bland has been a model of consistency for the Cleeks this year and he heads into the regular-season finale at LIV Golf Jeddah in prime position to lock up a spot in the 2024 League.
The straight-hitting Englishman has finished 6th, 3rd, 11th and 9th in his last four LIV Golf starts and he currently sits 20th in the season-long individual standings.
The top 24 in points will be guaranteed spots in next year's LIV Golf League and Bland arrives in Jeddah with a high probability of securing Lock Zone status for next season.
"I've played pretty solid most of the year," said the 50-year-old from Burton-on-Trent. "I'm 50. I'm trying to keep us oldies still relevant. But Lee (Westwood) does a good job of it, and Phil (Mickelson) does a good job of it. I think we're the only over-50s in LIV, which is pretty cool.
"You've just got to do your thing. I've just got to plot it along and take my chances when they come. 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, where I can be better than others. It's the old cliche, you've just got to focus on yourself, one shot at a time."
Bland's best performance of the year came in early August at Greenbrier where he began the week outside the top 24 in points. Fast forward to the Sunday, and boosted by impressive scores of 4-under 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'd been playing pretty good but -- you've got to stay patient and let it happen," Bland said of his performance at Greenbrier after he had finished sixth in the previous LIV Golf event in London. "It kind of happened in London and it was nice to bring it at Greenbrier as well."
Bland's teammate, Bernd Wiesberger, heads into Jeddah right on the bubble as the last player in the Open Zone (25th-44th) in the individual standings. 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.
Ulsterman Graeme McDowell is better placed than Austrian Wiesberger, occupying 41st spot in the individual standings, while Cleeks GC captain Martin Kaymer brings up the rear, in 49th place.
Overall, it has been a frustrating season for the Cleeks who have placed in the bottom two spots six times in the team standings but they have shown signs of improvement over the last three months by finishing 6th, 7th, 9th and 9th in their last four LIV Golf starts.
More of the same in Jeddah would be very welcome, even though the Cleeks remain in 12th place in the season-long standings heading into the regular-season finale.