Sophia Popov Wins AIG Women's Open For Major Title
Sophia Popov has grinded on various professional tours since completing her four-time All-American career at USC in 2014, battling through the immense challenges common to many golfers trying to make the big time.
As of Sunday, Popov has arrived.
Showing the poise of a seasoned pro, Popov won the 2020 AIG Women's Open at Royal Troon in Scotland, leading the final round from wire to wire while holding off a world class field.
She captured the title and a check ($675,000) six times larger than her career earnings at 7-under 277 (70-72-67-68), two better than Jasmine Suwannapura and three ahead of Minjee Lee.
Popov teed off Sunday morning with a three-stroke lead but it was cut to one before the turn after four straight birdies by Suwannapura. The 27-year-old, however, was never rattled.
Following a bogey on 1, Popov finished the rest of the front 9 at -3 and after birdies on 15 and 16, she moved to -8 with a four-stroke lead. She still led by three when she reached the 18th green, with three putts to win.
Popov, part of USC's 2013 NCAA title team, won with two, her bogey on 18 no doubt the most satisfying of her career. Unsuccessfully holding back tears, she tapped in for the championship.
It was a bit of fortune that got Popov to Scotland in the first place. She earned her berth thanks to a top 10 at the LPGA's Marathon Classic two weeks ago, an event she only got to play because of cancellations due to Covid concerns.
After staying sharp on the Cactus Tour this spring with multiple wins, Popov went back to the Symetra Tour for another event to try to maintain her standing. It left her time for just one practice round at Royal Troon. That's all she needed.
"There's a lot of hard work behind this, a lot of struggles I went through, especially health-wise," Popov said at the presentation ceremony. "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."
Popov was ranked 390 in the world before her Marathon top 10 and was still 304 entering this week.
"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."
Fellow Trojan All-American Jennifer Song tied for seventh at 2-over 286 while All-American Lizette Salas, a teammate of both Song's and Popov's, tied for 19th at 5-over 289.
Current senior Gabriela Ruffels, playing as an amateur, missed the cut by 1 stroke while former Trojan All-Americans Annie Park and Jennifer Chang also played and missed the cut.
Today I woke up a major champion. I still can't believe what happened yesterday. A single week that turned my life upside down (in a good way). Massive thank you to @aiginsurance , @therandagolf and @royaltroongc for hosting an incredible @aigwomensopen. #whatjusthappened pic.twitter.com/Coge6ZAohU
— Sophia Popov (@SophiaCPopov) August 24, 2020