Sophia Popov looks to follow three Cactus Tour titles with major victory at Royal Troon

Last fall Sophia Popov missed out on securing LPGA status at Q-Series by a single shot. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and qualifying school was canceled for 2020, Popov’s time on the Symetra Tour doubled to at least two years.

And yet, by a stroke of good luck and plenty of grit, she took advantage of every opportunity that was open to her – no matter how small – and played her way into a three-stroke lead in the year’s first major championship. How does a player go from winning a Cactus Tour event at Troon North in Scottsdale, Arizona, in May to leading the field by three at Royal Troon in Scotland three months later?

“Maybe this is the way it should have played out,” Popov said of her unusual journey to the top of the leaderboard at the AIG Women’s British Open.

Popov, 28, hit driver off the deck on the fourth hole to set up an eagle putt that set the tone for a bogey-free 4-under 67. Only three players are under par after three rounds at Troon. Popov sits at 4 under while Minjee Lee, among the best players on the LPGA without a major title, stands a 1 under alongside Jasmine Suwannapura.

Be a hell of a double if Sophia Popov won at Royal Troon. She won at Troon North in Arizona on the Cactus Tour in May.

— Matt Cooper (@MattCooperGolf) August 22, 2020

Lindsey Weaver, who is using a pull cart for a fourth week in a row, joins Caroline Masson and Austin Ernst in a share of fourth.

The only player in the top 10 who has won a major is former No. 1 Lydia Ko. She trails by six.

Back to Popov, who came into the week ranked No. 304 in the Rolex Rankings, and her wild ride to the top. After winning three times on the Cactus Tour during the LPGA’s five-month break, Popov returned to the tour at the Inverness Club in July – as a caddie.

While players can use a pull cart on the LPGA for the rest of the year, caddies cannot. Popov carried van Dam’s staff bag around Inverness, soaking up everything she could from one of the longest players in the game with the sweetest swing. Popov particularly fed off of van Dam’s positive energy.

The next week, the two best friends shared Popov’s pull cart at the Marathon Classic as they were in opposite waves. Because so many international LPGA players decided not to come to Toledo, the tour filled the field with Symetra Tour players. That’s how Popov got in.

She tied for ninth that week to play her way into her second Women’s British Open. That stint looping for van Dam helped to change her perspective.

“I thought about the course a little bit more from a caddie perspective,” she said. “I said, ‘What is the smart decision to make here?’ You know, I’m someone who tends to be very aggressive. I go at pins. But do you have to be? No, not really.”

After the Marathon, Popov, who played college golf at USC, flew back to Phoenix to compete on the Symetra Tour where she came in second. She arrived in Scotland on Tuesday and played

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By: Beth Ann Nichols
Title: Sophia Popov looks to follow three Cactus Tour titles with major victory at Royal Troon
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Published Date: Sat, 22 Aug 2020 19:55:38 +0000

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