Top-10 finishes for Bob MacIntyre and Calum Hill as Richard Bland wins British Masters
Let’s not dwell too much on mild disappointment from a Scottish perspective as both Bob MacIntyre and Calum Hill came up short in the Betfred British Masters at The Belfry.
Not when the winner was Richard Bland as the 48-year-old Englishman claimed a fairytale maiden European Tour victory at the 478th attempt.
After holing a 28-foot birdie putt across the 18th green at the Ryder Cup venue for a closing 66 and a 13-under-par 275 aggregate, the Hampshire man couldn’t hide his delight only to see his total matched by young Italian Guido Migliozzi as he birdied the 15th and 16th then got up and down from a bunker to save par at the last.
Sport can be so cruel at times, but not on this occasion. Bland, who dropped just one shot in 72 holes on a Brabazon Course showing some teeth, prevailed with a par at the first extra hole as Migliozzi three-putted after being closer to the hole in two.
“I can't,” replied Bland to being asked to describe his emotions by Sky Sports Golf’s Tim Barter, who is also his coach. “Next question. I've done it (tearing up)
“My game had been trending in the right way, we've worked so hard on the wedges and I drove the ball so well this week.
“Gone back to my old driver and I'm not the longest on tour, so I've got to hit fairways and I've probably missed single digit fairways all week and, if I have, it's been by a couple of inches.”
Englishman Dave Coupland finished eagle-birdie, holing two putts that were a combined 115 feet, to finish in a tie for third with Finn Mikko Korhonen (67) and Pole Adrian Meronk (69), with MacIntyre and Hill sharing eighth spot with former Scottish Open champion Edoardo Molinari on 10-under after they all closed with 71s.
Playing in consecutive groups for the fourth day running - that helped make things easier for David Burns, who coaches both players, as he flitted in between trying to keep an eye on them - MacIntyre and Hill started out one behind overnight leader Eddie Pepperell.
On a showery afternoon in the Midlands, the Scottish duo matched each other in terms of scores on every single hole on the front nine as they birdied the second and third before dropping a shot at the ninth as a consequence of three-putting.
That wasn’t the full story of that outward journey, though. MacIntyre, for instance, came close to a hole-in-one at the seventh, where his tee shot hit the bottom of the flag.
“I hope you are reporting on that that,” he said to this correspondent walking up the next fairway, having been relieved that he hadn’ been unfairly punished by salvaging his par from the bottom of a slope close to the water to a tight front pin position.
In the match behind, Burns reckoned Hill was producing his best stuff from tee to green over the four days as good birdie chances were set up at the sixth, seventh and eighth only for all three of those to go begging.
Those bogeys to finish the front nine left the tartan twosome two off the lead, which had been grabbed by Bland after he covered the opening 12 holes in five-under as the Englishman chased that elusive first victory.
On Friday, MacIntyre had gone for the green at the 10th but made a bogey. It didn’t sound as though he’d be trying again, but, with the tee up once more, it just proved too tempting for him.
Though not as wide on the right as the previous day, he found a nasty spot on the side of the bank and chunked it from there into a bunker in front of him, resulting in another 5 at the iconic hole.
Also trying to pull off something spectacular, Hill found a similar spot and sent his chip racing past the hole, coming up just short of the water. But in went a 20-footer for birdie, making it three in a row there.
He’d followed the one on Friday with another gain at the 11th, but not on this occasion. After finding sand off the tee, he bogeyed it this time before then running up a double-bogey 6 at the 13th, where he left his third shot in a greenside bunker.
While it was too little too late for both of them in terms of winning the tournament, both Scots signed off with birdies, MacIntyre rolling in almost the identical one to Bland’s before Hill coaxed in a 15-footer following a fine approach.
“I would have taken top 10 at the start of the week, but not the way I was playing today. It’s disappointing,” said MacIntyre, the world No 45 and highest-ranked player in the field, in summing up his effort.
“I kind of got rocked on the par 3. You need bits of luck to go your way to win golf tournaments and I seem to see that sort of thing, smashing a pin, happen to me a few times when I’m in contention.
“I had 160 yards and somehow I got a 9-iron to it. I wanted to hit 8-iron but Mike persuaded me to hit 9 and mid-flight I was just praying it wasn’t going to come up short.”
“It was so close to going straight in the cup and it hit right at the bottom of the flag. Some days you are the dog and some days you are the lamp post.”
He also felt lady luck had been against him at the tenth. “The ball stuck on a twig otherwise it would have run down into the bunker,” he said of his tee shot there.
“Just little things that need to go for you and today they just didn’t go for me. I’m hitting it great, I’m playing great. I just need a bit of luck.”
Hill, who has now recorded five top-10 finishes in nine starts this season, was pleased with his day’s work.
“It was a good way to finish, that was nice,” said the 26-year-old. “The score didn’t reflect how I played today, I played a lovely game of golf, hit it fantastic, gave myself lots of chances.
“Just two three putts and a little misfortune at the 13th when I didn’t need it, but I gave myself every chance to win a tournament today, so that was good.”