At the start of the LPGA restart, Sophia Popov (27) was a caddy. Yesterday, she shocked the golfing community by winning the AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon, under very difficult conditions, prevailing by two strokes over Jasmine Suwannapura of Thailand.
Ranked as 304th in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings heading into the week, Popov joins 2003 Open Championship winner Ben Curtis as the only players in competitive golf’s history to win a major while ranked outside the top 300.
This is her first tour title anywhere outside the three mini-tour events she won earlier this year. Nobody has ever won a major with a lower ranking since the Rolex rankings were created in 2006. Popov was caddying in an LPGA event just three weeks ago.
This was just Popov’s fourth appearance at a major. On Sunday Popov refused to give in, even though Suwannapura and Inbee Park applied pressure from early on. “I had a lot of obstacles thrown in my way so I’m glad I stuck with it.
I almost quit playing last year — thank God I didn’t”. There was a flood of tears even before Popov tapped in at the last, closing out with a 3-under-par 68 to finish at 277, two strokes better than Suwannapura (67) and four better than Minjee Lee (69).
“It is an incredible story personally for me,” Popov said. “That’s why I think I broke down on the 18th hole because it has been something I couldn’t have dreamed of just a week ago. It’s incredible that golf allows for these things to happen ...
I pretty much had the week of my life”. “It feels amazing,” Popov said. “There's a lot of hard work behind it, and a lot of struggles that I went through the last six years. I'm just glad I was able to overcome everything and just keep my head in it.
The year’s been a whirlwind for Popov, despite the LPGA and Symetra Tour shutdowns amid the coronavirus pandemic, having lost her conditional LPGA status last year and failing to win it back by a single shot at Q-series.
When the LPGA couldn’t fill its field amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, Popov unexpectedly got into the Marathon Classic two weeks ago with her Symetra Tour status. With her Women’s Open victory, Popov earns an LPGA exemption, effective beginning with the Cambia Portland Classic, Sept.
17-20. Sophia Popov is the first German to win a women’s major. The $675,000 winner’s check is more than six times Popov’s career LPGA earnings.