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Bland left to rue ‘one that got away’
Richard Bland was left to reflect on the “one that got away” after falling just short of a first ever European Tour win, in the Africa Open.
The Stoneham player came home in a tie for fifth at East London Golf Club, in South Africa, but could not shake the feeling that he should have been celebrating a truly famous result.
“For a few hours on Sunday I was gutted and hurting quite badly, because I felt that, with the way I played, it was probably the best chance I have ever had of winning,” said Bland, whose 18-under-par total put him two shots behind winner Thomas Aiken, who triumphed in a play-off.
“Looking back, I probably should have won by two or three.”
The Southampton-based professional had started his final round four shots behind leader Emiliano Grillo.
But, as the Argentine began to go backwards, the title was thrown up for grabs.
Bland was very much in contention, playing some superb shots, but he could not convert enough opportunities on the greens.
“Everybody in their career has had tournaments they should have won and didn’t, and it’s happened to me here,” he said.
“But at least it proved to me that, when I was in contention, I hit all the right shots to give myself the chances. I just didn’t take enough of them.
“It was one of those days on the greens. I missed a few early on, and didn’t feel that comfortable, and then I started looking for breaks that weren’t there.
“To miss out by a couple was pretty painful.”
Bland added: “Fifth is a good result, but it was definitely one that got away.
“The first few days after it’s happened, you’re probably not the best person to be around.
“But once you’ve had a bit of time to reflect, and the dust settles, you start looking at the positives a bit more.”
Indeed, there is plenty for Bland to take out of his performance, the most tangible of which is a prize money haul of €32,700 that takes his season total to €58,675, and elevates him up to 81st in the order of merit.
That is a strong position, especially considering that Bland missed the first three months of this campaign after undergoing knee surgery.
“I have been hitting it pretty decent for a couple of weeks, and I just needed to get some match practice after a long lay-off,” he said.
“My game’s in decent shape, and there’s no reason why I can’t get across the finishing line. That’s going to be my aim.”
Bland now has a week off, and will put his clubs down as he heads to Sun City for a break with his girlfriend.
He will then be back in action at the Tshwane Open, beginning on February 27, as the Tour’s South African swing comes to a conclusion.