“I was coming here off a couple of good results, a win and a third in Europe. I’ve been driving the ball well for five, six weeks now, which is the cornerstone if you’re going to put up a fight for a US Open.
“When I saw this place on Monday, it kind of set up to my eye. It’s all there just straight in front of me, and that;s the kind of golf course I like. There’s nothing kind of jumping out and grabbing you or anything like that.”
His four-under heroics – featuring seven birdies and three bogeys – handed him a one-shot lead in the clubhouse on five-under over South African Louis Oostuizen, the 2010 Open champion and a perennial visitor on the major leaderboards who shot a 72.
In short, Bland the veteran looked like he had been competing on the biggest stages for all of his career.
The South Course is anything but a pushover, as evidenced by Rory McIlroy, the four-time major winner, who had to fight back with two birdies in the last four holes for a 73 and one-over for the tournament.
Two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson is on three-under after his own 67, while pre-tournament favourite Jon Rahm moved ominously on to the same mark after a 70.
Torrey was tough, but Bland seemed oblivious to both the severity of the challenge and the pressure of the occasion. Perhaps when you have been through Q-School on 10 occasions and watched, over and over, your salary prospects dangling on a thread, competing in a £8 million-plus event does not feel too vexing.
Whatever, Bland – who once had trials as a goalkeeper for Southampton and is still based in the Hampshire city – was unflappable. If he had provided a masterclass of perseverance in the Midlands, then on the California coast he delivered another in making the utmost of an opportunity.
To think, it was only three years ago, in 2018, when Bland suffered the low point in his profession. At 45, Bland lost his card and at home, his brother, Heath, was suffering from a life-threatening illness which saw him placed in an induced coma for a month at the start of that year. At that point, many figured it was over for Bland, but once more he picked himself up to reclaim his Tour card and now he is reaping the rewards of that belligerence of spirit.
Bland was in the first group out in the second round, after the completion of the weather delayed first round, with Oosthuizen matching American Russell Henley’s 67 to share the lead.
Starting on the 10th, Bland holed a 30-footer on that par four to set the tone for his round. He missed the green on the next two holes, but enacted nerveless ups-and-downs on both occasions and was back on the birdie trail when hitting an approach from 90 yards to five feet on the par-five 13th (his fourth).