Evergreen Bland continues amazing season

Richard Bland leads another European Tour event at the London Golf Club with his opening 65.
Richard Bland leads another European Tour event at the London Golf Club with his opening 65.

Evergreen Richard Bland has continued his amazing breakthrough season - at the tender age of 48 - by carding a bogey-free 65 that's given him a one-shot lead after the first round of the Cazoo Classic in Kent.

The Englishman claimed his first European Tour win in May - in his 478th start - at the British Masters and followed that up by becoming the oldest man to hold the 36-hole lead at the US Open.

A seven-under-par opening round at London Golf Club on Thursday may not have matched those achievements but it gives Bland an excellent platform upon which to build another solid week as he eyes a career-best finish on the Race to Dubai.

His best-ever finish in the European season-long standings is 27th in 2016 and while he currently sits in 17th, he only needs to stay in the top 30 between now and the end of the campaign to earn a place in the field for the season's final World Golf Championships event and next year's Open at St Andrews.

"I want to get to the WGC-HSBC at the end of the year and a big goal of mine would be to get to the Open next year at St Andrews," said Bland. "I've never played an Open at St Andrews."

He made the perfect start with a hat-trick of birdies from the 10th and added further gains on the 15th, second, fifth and eighth.

Fellow Englishmen Jordan Smith and Dale Whitnell carded rounds of 66 to sit a shot off the lead alongside Americans Sean Crocker and Sihwan Kim.

Dane Lucas Bjerregaard, Swede Niklas Lemke and Frenchman Joel Stalter were at five under, a shot clear of a group that includes Maverick Antcliff, the 28-year-old Queenslander who recorded five birdies in his 68.

Australian Associated Press