Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

LIV’s Richard Bland outlasts Hiroyuki Fujita in four-hole playoff at U.S. Senior Open

By admin Jul5,2024

It took a two-hole aggregate playoff then two more holes of sudden death as Richard Bland of England outlasted Hiroyuki Fujita of Japan for the U.S. Senior Open title Monday at Newport Country Club in Rhode Island.

Bland became the 12th player to win his U.S. Senior Open debut and the second golfer from England to win the title.

Playing No. 18 for the third time in the playoff, Bland almost holed his blast from a greenside bunker, the ball striking the flag and finishing inches from the hole. His par knocked out Fujita, who failed to get up and down from 44 yards short of the flag on the long par 4. Fujita’s lengthy par putt missed by an inch.

It was the second senior major title in two tries for Bland, 51, who plays on LIV Golf. In May he won the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores in Michigan.

“Your first two senior tournaments to be majors, and to come out on top is, I was just hoping going into the PGA that I was good enough to contend. I hadn’t played against these guys,” he said. “I knew, if I played the way I know I can play, it should be good enough to be able to compete. But, yeah, to be (standing) here with two majors is, yeah, I’m at a loss for words at the moment now.”

Both players had gone par-par-bogey in the first three playoff holes. After the playoff started on No. 10, they played the long, par-4 18th three times to settle the playoff.

On the fourth playoff hole, Fujita drove left and just inches off the fairway. But Fujita carries only a 5-wood, and with 259 yards to go, he was unable to reach the green in regulation. His approach ended up some 44 yards short of the flag in good position, and his pitch onto the green finished well short of the hole.

After having banged his drive past a fairway bunker, Bland had a 214-yard approach uphill but hooked his approach into a greenside bunker. From there, his par save locked up the title. The ball bounced once, kissed the flagstick, then looked as if it might fall into the cup before settling just inches away.

Bland closed in 4-under 66 to reach the playoff, while Fujita cooled off Monday and finished in 1-over 71.

Hiroyuki Fujita plays a bunker shot in the fourth round of the U.S. Senior Open on Sunday at Newport Country Club. (Louis Walker III/USA TODAY NETWORK)

On the first hole of the two-hole aggregate playoff, both players missed the fairway to the right on the 455-yard, par-4 10th. Fujita missed the green just short but was able to save his par after Bland missed his birdie putt.

On the second playoff hole, both players hit the fairway on the 466-yard, par-4 18th, their golf balls within steps of each other on the side of a mound. Both players hit the green and two-putted for par, the playoff then returning to the 18th tee for what turned into sudden death.

Both players missed the green on No. 18 on the third playoff hole, Fujita in a greenside bunker to the left and Bland slicing his approach well right. After Bland’s pitch and Fujita’s bunker blast, both players missed lengthy par putts and the playoff went to a fourth hole.

The final round was unable to finish Sunday because of dangerous storms. When play was called Sunday, Fujita had a three-shot lead on Bland and a four-stroke lead on Richard Green.

But Fujita, 55, made three bogeys on the back nine Monday after having just two bogeys in his first 64 holes, opening the door for Bland to catch him at 13-under 267. Fujita missed just one fairway in his first three rounds but wasn’t as sharp after the weather delay.

A par on No. 18 in regulation would have locked up the title for Bland, but he fell into the playoff with a bogey on the closing hole after driving into a bunker. Fujita narrowly missed a long birdie putt on the 72nd hole that would have given him the title.

Bland’s win gets him a spot in the 2025 U.S. Open.

“I know what you guys like to do with U.S. Opens, so just go easy on us olders. Maybe you can stick a tee up maybe for me,” he said. “It was my first ever tournament in America in at Bethpage in ’09, and I was just blown away by it. We’re always kind of like, oh, being from Europe or from the UK, our major is The Open, but I was blown away by the U.S. Open.

“I’ll be looking at flights to Oakmont for next year very, very soon.”

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By admin

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