Fourteen years after his first, John Bland captured his second European Senior Tour title on a day of high drama in the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open.
The South African, who won the London Masters in his maiden Senior Tour season in 1995, eventually saw off overnight leader Bob Boyd of America with a birdie on the second hole of a sudden death play-off after both men had finished the day level at Golf Club Bad Ragaz in Switzerland.
Bland finished on 11 under par courtesy of a round of 65 which featured four birdies and an eagle two at the seventh hole, whilst Boyd reached the same mark with a birdie at the last hole – only his second of the day.
In contrast, former Ryder Cup player Sam Torrance of Scotland closed with a bogey to sign for a round of 65 which saw him finish one shot shy of the duo on ten under par.
Moments after collecting the trophy and a cheque for €33,000 which lifts him to 14th place in the Order of Merit, Bland – at 63 the second oldest winner in Senior Tour history behind England’s Neil Coles – dedicated the win to his wife Sonja, who was on hand with some words of advice earlier in the week.
“She told me to slow down because I was swinging too fast and it seemed to do the trick,” said Bland, who sets the record for the biggest gap between Senior Tour victories of 13 years and 313 days.
He added: “I knew I had to get some early birdies on the board this morning to try to put some pressure on the leaders, and fortunately enough I was able to do it. If I’m being honest I probably thought I was too far back to win the tournament, but maybe that allowed me to relax more and just play my natural game. Though obviously the mindset changed and the pressure came back when I reached 11 under par and saw I was winning the tournament!
“I watched Bob [Boyd] playing the last hole, and he hit a great putt to take it to a play-off. When we were on our way to the 18th tee he apologised to me because he said he’d hardly made a putt all day! That was really good of him, and just shows the sort of camaraderie that exists on the Senior Tour.”
Bland will now head to Fife for the Cleveland Golf/Srixon Scottish Senior Open, where he will hope to close the gap further on the players at the top of the Order of Merit.
He said: “I’m not really thinking of winning the Order of Merit, but it’d be nice to give the likes of Woosie and Sam [Torrance] a bit of a scare.”
Boyd climbed six places to 12th in the Order of Merit, whilst Torrance closed the gap on second-placed Ian Woosnam of Wales courtesy of his cheque for €15,400.
Boyd’s compatriot Doug Johnson finished behind Torrance in fourth place after closing with a round of 69.