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Bland sets up Johnson showdown in Austin

Bland sets up Johnson showdown in Austin

Richard Bland set up a last-16 clash with Dustin Johnson as his incredible story took another twist at the 2022 WGC - Dell Technologies Match Play.

Richard Bland

The Englishman is making his debut at Austin Country Club at the age of 49 after winning his first DP World Tour title at the 478th attempt last season.

He currently sits third in the DP World Tour Rankings in Partnership with Rolex after coming within a whisker of a first Rolex Series title when he lost a play-off against Viktor Hovland in January at the Dubai Desert Classic.

A 2 & 1 win over Lee Westwood in Group Nine means he is now four victories away from a World Golf Championships title but he will have to get past a Major Championship winner who has spent 135 weeks at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking to make the quarter-finals.

"Of course he's favourite," said Bland. "That's not being negative or anything like that, that's just realistic. Everybody knows that.

"But if I play how I know I can play, I would like to think he's got a game on his hands. So yeah, we'll see. But I've got nothing to lose. I'm clearly the underdog, so the underdog's never got anything to lose.

"By the looks of it he's playing pretty good, so I'm going to have to play my best golf just to have a chance at beating him. But it's 18 holes, it's match play - who knows? We'll see.

"I guess probably someone at 49 shouldn't be doing this for the first time but I guess there's always the exception to the rule, isn't there? Not necessarily just in golf. You see it in other sports as well.

"You've only got to kind of look at it, in tennis Rafa Nadal's still beating all the young ones, and Roger Federer, I'm sure when he comes back will be exactly the same.

"So there's always the exception to the rule. So it's quite nice to be that exception."

I guess probably someone at 49 shouldn't be doing this for the first time but I guess there's always the exception to the rule, isn't there?

Westwood won the first with a par but Bland did the same at the third before his countryman birdied the fourth to edge ahead.

Back-to-back gains on the fifth and sixth put Bland ahead and when he won the ninth with a par, he was 2 Up.

He went 3 Up with a par on the 11th but Westwood eagled the 12th and parred the fourth to get within one before Bland holed a brilliant 32-footer on the 17th to secure his progress.

Johnson beat Max Homa 1 Up in Group Eight to maintain his 100 per cent record this week.

Jon Rahm

Mackenzie Hughes beat Matthew Wolff 1 Up in the other Group Eight match, while Talor Gooch defeated Bryson DeChambeau 2 Up in Group Nine.

Should Bland beat Johnson, he will face another World Number One in the quarter-finals with Jon Rahm taking on Brooks Koepka in the other last-16 match in that quarter of the draw.

Current World Number One Rahm lost 3 & 2 to the already-eliminated Patrick Reed in Group One but still moved through as Sebsatian Munoz beat Cameron Young 1 Up.

In Group 16, Koepka birdied the last to beat Shane Lowry 1 Up and move through with a 100 per cent record, while Harold Varner III beat Erik van Rooyen 5 & 4 in the other match.

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