U.S. Open: 5 things to know about surprise contender Richard Bland

It’s perfectly OK to admit that you didn’t put money down on Richard Bland to be in contention during the second round of the 2021 U.S. Open.

He was the longest of longshots, with 400-to-1 odds to win the toughest of tournaments ahead of the start at Torrey Pines on Thursday, and as of publishing this post, he’s six-under and leading on Friday with other contenders getting ready to tee off thanks to a five-under (!!) second round.

So who is this guy? Glad you asked. Here are some facts about the golfer who skyrocketed up the leaderboard heading into the weekend:

Bland is from the U.K.

Richard Bland of England reacts on the 11th green during the final round of the BMW International Open at Golfclub Munchen Eichenried on June 25, 2017 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

He was born in Burton-on-Trent and won the 1994 European Under 21 championship.

Bland won his first tournament in his 478th start last month

Richard Bland
Richard Bland

Richard Bland celebrates winning The Betfred British Masters hosted by Danny Willett at The Belfry on May 15, 2021 in Sutton Coldfield, England. (Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

That’s not a typo. He won his first tournament — the 2021 British Masters — at age 48 (that’s the oldest first-time winner in European Tour history). It seems like he’s carrying that form with him to Torrey Pines. Bland holed a 25-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole, then beat Italy’s Guido Migliozzi in a playoff. In a video call with his parents, Bland asked his mother if she was OK. “No!” she said through tears of joy. “I’ve waited for this so long. We’re absolutely proud of you.”

He's played in three other majors

Richard Bland tees off from the fourth green during a practice round of The 146th Open Championship golf tournament at Royal Birkdale Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

He missed the cut at the British Open in 1998 but finished with a top-20 in 2017. He also didn’t make it to the weekend in the 2009 U.S. Open.

His putting has been so good

Richard Bland of England (r) with his playing partner Seth Waugh on the 12th green during the first round of the 2015 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at the Kingsbarns Golf Links on October 1, 2015 in Kingsbarns, Scotland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

That’s a good way to win the U.S. Open. Bland is second in putting for the week after two rounds, trailing only Scottie Scheffler.

Phil Mickelson gave him praise for his win

Richard Bland waves after his putt on the ninth green during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Torrey Pines Golf Course. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

After his first win, a number of players like Phil Mickelson tweeted in support.