LIV player refused exemption on Champions

Victorious last weekend at the KitchenAid Senior PGA in Michigan, Richard Bland, 51 years old, has been denied his one-year exemption on the PGA Tour Champions

by Andrea Gussoni
LIV player refused exemption on Champions
© Getty Images Sport - Patrick McDermott / Stringer

Victorious last weekend at the KitchenAid Senior PGA in Michigan, Richard Bland, 51 years old, has been denied his one-year exemption on the PGA Tour Champions. The Englishman, a former player on the DP World Tour where he clinched his sole tournament victory at the age of 48 on May 15, 2021, has been a member of the LIV Golf since June 2022, a circuit banned by the all-powerful PGA Tour.

Richard Bland's joy was short-lived following his victory on Sunday, May 26, at the Harbor Shores Resort in Michigan. Despite his triumph, he was denied a one-year exemption on the Champions Tour by the PGA Tour, the US circuit reserved for those over 50 years old.

Richard Bland, results

This decision is final as the Englishman has been competing on the LIV Golf since June 2022, a tour backed by millions of dollars from the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia. The PGA Tour, led by former world number one, Australian Greg Norman, has banned all golfers who have joined the Saudi Tour.

Although Bland won the British Masters on May 15, 2021, marking his 478th start on the DP World Tour, he may still be eligible for upcoming Major events for those over 50 years old. This includes the US Open (June 27-30 at Newport) and The Open (July 25-28 at Carnoustie).

Bland, born in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, England, embarked on his professional golf career in 1996. By 1997, he had progressed to the final stage of the European Tour's qualifying school, earning his card on Europe's second-tier Challenge Tour for 1998.

His breakthrough came in 2001 when he won the season-ending Challenge Tour Grand Final, which propelled him to join the European Tour ranks in 2002. Despite a promising start on the European Tour, including a tie for 2nd place at the Murphy's Irish Open in his debut season, Bland faced challenges in subsequent years.

While he struggled to maintain his card on the European Tour at times, he consistently regained his playing status through various means, such as the Challenge Tour rankings and qualifying school. Bland's career reached new heights in May 2021 when he secured his first victory at the Betfred British Masters, becoming the oldest first-time winner on the European Tour at the age of 48.

He followed this milestone by participating in the U.S. Open, where he made history as the oldest player to hold a share of the lead after two rounds. Despite falling back over the weekend, he achieved a respectable tie for 50th place.

The 2021 European Tour season saw Bland produce eight top-10 finishes, culminating in an 11th place finish on the Race to Dubai rankings, his best to date. In January 2022, he finished as runner-up at the Dubai Desert Classic, narrowly losing to Viktor Hovland in a playoff.

In March 2022, Bland aimed to qualify for the Masters Tournament, narrowly missing out despite an impressive performance at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. His PGA Tour debut at the Valero Texas Open saw him secure a Top-30 finish, elevating his world ranking to 48th.

However, Bland's involvement in the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series in June 2022 led to fines and suspension from the European Tour for breaching conflicting event regulations. Following an independent arbitration process, he resigned from the European Tour in May 2023.

Despite his achievements, Bland faced setbacks, such as being denied entry to the 2023 Senior Open Championship due to outstanding fines to the European Tour related to breaching conflicting tournament regulations.

Pga Tour