While the rest of the nation whoops and hollers its way into Level 2 of lockdown restrictions, those of us ensnared here in Glasgow and up in Moray just have to muddle on as before.

Until the kibosh was put on our promotion up the Covid order of merit, I had this dewy-eyed vision that families would come together this week and huddle round the Tuesday column before warmly embracing each other in a gushing, emotional outpouring of cuddles once they’d finished reading it.

This, of course, was all delusional poppycock. Judging by some of the feedback I’ve had down the seasons, the general consensus is that most folk are more than happy to continue physically distancing themselves from this back page.

We may not have our hugs here in Tier 3 but what a comforting, heart-warming story Richard Bland penned with his maiden European Tour victory in the Betfred British Masters at the age of 48. The tearful conclusion to it just about had The Belfry greenkeepers bringing out the squeegees.

A grinder, a survivor, a battler, a hardy perennial? Whatever you want to call him, Bland is it and he follows in a long line of dogged, driven, defiant campaigners whose gritty perseverance would make the Ancient Mariner gasp. At the 478th attempt, Bland finally reaped the ultimate reward for his tireless endeavours. Even when he had to drop down to the second-tier Challenge Tour at the age of 46 to regain his full playing rights for the main circuit, Bland never gave up on his dream. As Arnold Palmer, and other sporting greats, have said, “winning isn’t everything, but wanting it is.”


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Many have ploughed this particular furrow. It took Malcolm MacKenzie 509 events before he won his maiden European Tour title while Roger Chapman, with six second place finishes, finally won at the 472nd attempt. He would go on to win two senior majors in America during one golden season as his career flourished in his 50s.

Carl Mason, meanwhile, ended his tour duck at the 455th go in the Andalucia Open of 1994 and then won the Scottish Open a few months later. When he hit his half century, he would go on to win 25 times on the senior circuit.

In the aftermath of his weekend success, Bland gave encouragement to his good friend and sturdy Scottish stalwart David Drysdale. He has played 523 European Tour events but, despite having more close shaves than a Turkish barber, the 46-year-old has yet to win. Perhaps Drysdale never will? In the dog-eat-dog world of professional golf, not every dog has its day. That’s just the nature of this fickle beast.

The term ‘journeyman’ can often be seen as damning someone with faint praise but there will be any amount of young pretenders starting off who wouldn’t mind being labelled a journeyman if it means a career of great longevity. It’s hard enough gaining a foothold in the pro game let alone staying on tour for years. In this hellishly tough school of hard knocks, the valiant Bland finally got to be top of the class.


Golf is so rich in variety that it doesn’t tend to repeat itself and forecasting this, that and the other is a largely futile exercise. But that doesn’t stop us forecasting this, that and the other anyway. Ahead of the second men’s major of the season, the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, the talk surrounds Rory McIlroy’s assault, Jordan Spieth’s bid for the career grand slam and a course measuring nearly 8000 yards. 

It was at Kiawah, of course, where majestic McIlroy won the 2012 PGA by such a vast margin, the rest were so far behind they may as well have been playing in the 2011 championship.


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Emulating that eight-shot romp of nine years ago may be a trifle far-fetched but at least he returns to his happy hunting ground in sprightly fettle following his first win in 18 month the other week.

We now wait to see which Rory will turn up. Since the last of his four major wins in 2014, the Northern Irishman is a combined 32-over-par for the first rounds in golf’s four showpiece occasions. In rounds two, three and four, he’s 64-under. Will he finally hit the ground running on day one of a major come Thursday or splutter off the starting grid again?

After winning his first tour title on Sunday, the aforementioned Bland used the old analogy, “hopefully it might be like buses, two come along in quick succession.” McIlroy, who is known to go on streaks of success when his confidence is high, will be hoping that will be the case for him too at Kiawah.


Talking of romping to victory, Craig Howie conjured a commanding seven shot win on the Challenge Tour in Sweden at the weekend.

The Peebles man was a winner in his amateur days, he won on the third-tier as a fledgling professional in 2018 and now he has taken a big step with a breakthrough triumph on the proven breeding ground of the Challenge Tour.

Winning at any level is not easy but Howie is getting used to that winning feeling. It’s a great habit to get in to.