Inspired Sophia Popov Completes Fairytale Story at Royal Troon
AFTER three days when the wind blew so hard that the world’s best women golfers had trouble keeping their balance, conditions finally relented and Sophia Popov, of Germany produced a final round of 68 to win the Women’s Open at Royal Troon by two shots.
To say it was a surprise victory is something of an understatement. She began the week ranked 304th in the world and had never won on either the LPGA or Ladies European Tour. But she maintained her composure to record a seven-under-par winning total. Thailand's Jasmine Suwannapura shot a 67 to finish on five under, two ahead of world number eight Minjee Lee (69).
Seven-time major winner Inbee Park was the only other player to finish under par, after a 66 saw her end one under.
It was a stunning victory by Popov, who is the lowest-ranked player to win a women's major. She said she "almost quit playing last year" as she cradled the trophy and sobbed tears of joy. "I'm so glad I didn't," she added before the tears took over again.
"I got here on Tuesday and I knew my game was in really good shape. I took that belief into every round but I didn't expect this. I was uber nervous the whole round. I was glad I could get it done."
She missed out on securing a place on the LPGA Tour by a single shot last year and then the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic and the cancellation of qualifying school meant another year on the second-tier circuit.
Her only other professional wins have all come on the satellite Cactus Tour earlier this year and she only secured qualification for the Women's Open with a top-10 finish at the Marathon Classic.
Going into this week, she had earned only £82,500 in her career but this victory was worth more than £500,000.
Popov started the final round with a three-shot lead but immediately dropped a shot after pulling her opening drive into a fairway bunker.
However, she birdied the next two holes and added a third at the sixth.
Suwannapura had four successive birdies from the fourth as she reduced the lead to one shot by the seventh but bogeys on the 11th and 13th holes handed the advantage back to Popov. But Suwannapura wasn’t finished yet. She birdied the 15th and 16th before Popov, playing in the group behind, responded with the same to set up a comfortable finish that even allowed her the luxury of a bogey at the last.
Lydia Ko started the final round six shots adrift but a couple of birdies on the front nine briefly raised her hopes before four successive bogeys from the 10th ended her hopes.
It was a poor tournament for home players. England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Mel Reid as well as Northern Ireland's Stephanie Meadow were the best of the UK players on nine over, one ahead of 2018 champion Georgia Hall.
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