South African John Bland claimed his third European Senior Tour title with a one shot victory in The Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open at Royal Porthcawl.
The 64 year old carded a one under par 71 in the final round, seeing off Paraguayan Angel Franco in dramatic fashion. The pair were neck and neck at eight under after 16 holes, but Franco, three groups ahead of Bland, bogeyed the 18th and then the South African birdied the par five 17th to give himself some breathing space coming up the last. It proved crucial, as Bland found a bunker from the 18th tee and ended up with a bogey.
Bland’s compatriot Chris Williams took a share of second place after a level par 72, but overnight leader Bob Cameron capitulated on the back nine, carding four straight bogeys and two double bogeys for a 78.The challenges of Scottish duo Ross Drummond and Gordon Brand Jnr, in contention overnight, also faltered with rounds of 83 and 75 respectively.
Bland, who fired three birdies and an eagle to make it a second successive South African winner in this event following Bertus Smit, said: “The course was very tricky today but I handled it well and did everything right – except for the last when I found a bunker and got a little nervous.
“The key to it was to get the right club. Sometimes you can’t believe how far the ball is going on this course. The birdie on the 17th was a big one. I was hanging around one or two shots behind most of the day and on the 16th I realised Mr Franco had dropped a shot on the 18th.
“So to make that birdie on the 17th was massive - and just as well I did as I did that silly thing on the last.
“This is one of the finest links courses in the world and the players really enjoy coming here. There’s not a bad hole on the course, it’s magnificent. It’s been a great week and I’m delighted to round it off by winning.”
Asked what the key to the success for South Africans in this event was, Bland replied: “I don’t know, but it’s been a good couple of years for us, and it’s been a good couple of weeks with the Springboks here in Wales and winning. It’s a shame the football team isn’t doing so well in the World Cup but I’m more of a rugby man myself.
“The World Cup looks to be going very well back home though and it seems they’ve done a very good job staging it.”
Franco had a stunning run of five birdies from the fourth and picked up another shot at the par five 12th although back-to-back bogeys at the 14th and 15th put him back at eight under. The turning point of the round came at the 18th, where a bogey proved costly.
“It’s very disappointing, particularly as John ended up bogeying the last too,” said Franco, who has finished runner-up six times on the Senior Tour.