USC’s Popov Wins AIG Women’s Open by 2

Sophia Popov of Germany, who helped USC win the 2013 NCAA Women’s Championship before struggling for seven years as a pro, suddenly is a major champion.

The 27-year-old Popov, who had no status on the LPGA Tour and has been playing on the Symetra Tour, carded a 3-under-par 68 to win the AIG Women’s Open by two strokes over Jasmine Suwannapura of Thailand at Royal Troon Golf Club in Troon, Scotland.

“I guess it is an incredible story,” said Popov, who started the week at No. 304 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings and became the first German woman to win a major golf title. “I think that’s why I broke down on the 18th hole, because it’s something I couldn’t have dreamed of just a week ago.

“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 (final) round. I was glad I could get it done.

“I almost quit playing golf last year. I’m so glad I didn’t. This feels amazing.”

Popov, who fought through Lyme disease that caused her to lose about 25 pounds early in her pro career, took a three-stroke lead into the final round. She made a bogey on the first hole Sunday, but carded birdies on three of the next five holes and two more down the stretch before finishing with her second bogey.

An All-American at USC who won the 2010 European Ladies Amateur and claimed three titles on the Cactus Tour earlier this year during the shutdown caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, finished with a score of 70-72-67-68—277, 7-under.

Popov qualified for the Women’s Open by tying for ninth in the Marathon LPGA Classic earlier this month at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio, getting into the field because not enough LPGA Tour players where in the field right after the Covid-19 shutdown.

Then Popov, who was born in Massachusetts but moved with her family to Germany as a child and holds dual citizenship, tied for second in the Founders Tribute at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, Ariz., on the Symetra Tour last week before heading for Royal Troon to make history.

Suwannapura was second at 71-72-69-67—279, while Minjee Lee of Australia was third at 74-69-69-69—281.

Inbee Park of South Korea, a seven-time major champion, was fourth at 77-69-71-66—283, followed by Austin Ernst at 72-70-72-70—284, and Momoko Ueda of Japan at 75-75-68- 67—285.

Andrea Lee of Hermosa Beach and Stanford posted a score of 74-73-70-69—286 to tie for seventh with Jennifer Song of USC, who shot 72-74-68-72—286, In Gee Chun of South Korea, who finished at 74-74-68-70—286, and Carolina Masson of Germany, who came in at 72-74-68-72—286.

Defending champion Hinako Shibuno of Japan, who won last year at Woburn Golf Club in Milton Keyes, England, missed the cut by three strokes at 76-78—154 as strong winds blew across the course on the first two days.

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