Date: July 16, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes, St Andrews

Bland’s radical recovery pays

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Adam Bland turned to hypnotherapy to save his golf career.

On the eve of his Open Championship return, Bland revealed today he’d become so mentally fragile after losing his Web.Com Tour card in 2011 that he feared turning up to the golf course.

Four soul-searching years later, Bland is about to take a stride he feared had passed him by – on to the major championship arena for the first time.

The affable South Australian seemed on the verge of great things when he parlayed wins in the WA PGA and two more on the Canadian Tour into a Web.Com Tour card in 2009.

And with one round to play in the 2010 Australian Masters at Victoria, he led a field containing Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Camilo Villegas before stumbling to lose by a shot to Stuart Appleby.

The golfing world seemed to be his oyster.

But the cruel truth was about to reveal itself to Bland.

“There were a couple of times I got lucky with it and felt I was going to keep going,” he said.

“But you can just lose it so quickly – and I did.

“I just lost my game technically and then that led to mental (problems) and I was at the stage where I was scared to go to golf and didn’t want to play.

“I was lucky to have the support of my girlfriend Bec, and we decided I’d take a year off once I lost my card and just work mentally big time.

“I found a new coach (former touring pro Jens Nilsson) and it all kind of clicked.

“He’s the right gel for me. I worked really hard on the mental game and I still am. But it’s still not at the stage I’d like it, not even close.

“But it’s a lot better and I can play again and trust what I’ve got. Jens said to me you never lose your talent, it’s just you’ve got to find it again.

“So I’ve stuck with that and all the process and it’s coming back which is nice.”

And a key aspect of Bland’s return from the depths of golfing despair has been hypnotherapy – a treatment he still swears by.

“It’s really interesting and I’ve lived by hypnotherapy ever since I started it,” he said.

“I think it’s the greatest sports psychology I’ve ever done.”

Bland, 32, cited an example of its power being that his hypnotherapist can take him back to specific imagery and feelings of times when things were positive and recapture those thoughts.

“You go `under’ and she can take you back so deeply that I can pick out the clothes I was wearing on a particular day.

“It was so deep. It was unbelievable. From then on I started playing well and kept doing it and doing it to the point my technique has caught up with the mental side of things a little bit.

“Obviously if the mental game takes over the technique, that would be great.”

Bland won his way on to the Japanese Tour in 2014 – a second start on a career now flourishing again.

His win in May’s Japan PGA Championship earned him his ticket to St Andrews and it’s still a bit of a haze to Bland that he’s living a childhood dream.

“As a young kid, I only ever associated the British Open with St Andrews, so it’s awesome to be here,” he said.

“It’s awesome to be here. It’s got that prestige about it and gives you chills when you walk in here.

“I was nervous yesterday, but I’m pretty good today, so hopefully I can contain it tomorrow, or maybe just scrape through the first few holes and go from there.”

Bland, who’s surrounded in Scotland by an entourage of friends from Adelaide and Queensland, paid great tribute to partner Bec and their children Ashlyn, 4, and nine-month-old son Joel as the reason for his successful re-emergence.

“I’m a lot better player now than I ever was. I have much better control of the ball and maybe I’m smarter – maybe you get a little bit wiser when you have kids and just my perspective on it is much better.”

Bland hasn’t set any specific goals for his first Open appearance since 2006 and is just hoping he can emulate the play that has served him so well in Japan for the past 18 months.

“I just want to do what I do well and what I’ve done the last six months to be playing well and hopefully that stands up again,” he said.

And if he’s to succeed, it might come down to an unlikely new mate – 1996 Open champion Tom Lehman, his practice partner for the past two days.

“I was booked with a group (on Tuesday) who just left and then I just jumped on the tee with Tom and he was unbelievable – he just told us all the pins here and there and was a really great guy.

“Today I was coming down the second and he asked if he could join in.

“He was really positive with everything I was doing and really encouraging me saying it (my swing) is looking good and to enjoy the week.”

Bland said Lehman’s advice on the course and experience of the week was “invaluable” to a newcomer.

“It meant we didn’t waste any time. We knew there were going to be the four pins based on what Tom told us and we hit a lot of putts to them.

“Today we even hit to them rather than where the pins are, so it’s great because it saves us a lot of time and effort.

“It’s a little surreal. It’s unheard of to play with him and know his career and how he did it.”

And to cap off Bland’s great week, he also shared parts of today’s practice round with dual Open champion Padraig Harrington.

For his part, Lehman was full of praise for Bland saying his game and ball control suited St Andrews and that if he settled well in tomorrow’s opening round, there was no reason he wouldn’t do well.