RICHARD Bland is one of only nine players under par at The Open Championship - and he believes he can win it.

The Southampton man turned pro in 1996 but made the cut in a major for the first time today by following his first-round 67 with a 72 at a wet and windy Royal Birkdale.

Bland is just five shots off leader Jordan Spieth and only three behind second-placed American Matt Kuchar at the halfway point.

He has not ruled out making the Open Championship his first victory on a major worldwide tour after battling to remain in contention.

Bland, who is yet to win on the European Tour in more than 400 attempts, shared the lead after starting his second round with birdies on the second and fourth.

He said: "I know I haven't won a tournament yet but, hey, why not this one?

"I'm not here just to make up the numbers. I've proved over the years that I can compete with the best and I'm looking forward to doing that over the weekend.

"Five back with 36 to play is a good position. Yes, there's world-class players in front but I'm playing good and hopefully if the weather holds out, I can hopefully put a run together.

"Today was brutal from shot one to shot 72. The weather was just changing the whole time. You kind of thought it looks like it's brightening up and then 15 minutes later it's just hosing it down again.

"It was a real grind coming in and I really felt like I wanted to stay under par for the tournament."

It has certainly been a magnificent effort in what is only Bland’s third major and his second Open, having also played at Royal Birkdale in 1998.

The 44 year-old, whose only pro win was on the Challenge Tour in 2001, was tied for sixth after round one, two shots off the lead on a three-under 67, having finishing his opening 18 holes with three successive birdies.

The runner-up at last month's BMW International Open in Germany, where he finished just one shot behind Andres Romero, Bland is in the form of his life.

He is level with three other players on one under, including an "ecstatic" Rory McIlroy.

The Northern Irishman had no need for a pep talk after one of his best Open Championship rounds kept him firmly in contention for a fifth major title.

Meanwhile, Southampton amateur Harry Ellis carded a 75 to end on 12 over. Justin Rose is five over after following his 71 with a round of 74.

1. Jordan Spieth -6 (65 & 69)
2. Matt Kuchar -4 (65 & 71)
3. Brooks Koepka -3 (65 & 72), Ian Poulter -3 (67 & 70)
5. Richie Ramsay -2 (68 & 70)
6. Richard Bland -1 (67 & 72), Austin Connelly -1 (67 & 72), Rory McIlroy -1 (71 & 68), Gary Woodland -1 (70 & 69).