Germany’s Sophia Popov made history with a life-changing two-shot victory at the 2020 AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon, closing with a magnificent final round of 68 (-3) to finish at seven-under-par and claim the $675,000 first place prize.

Looking
unfazed throughout, Popov, who lead by three-strokes overnight, came into the week
ranked 304 on the Rolex Rankings and becomes the first German to win a women’s
major championship and the highest ranked player to capture the historic championship.

She joins an
illustrious list of champions including Georgia Hall, Annika Sorenstam and
Catriona Matthew.

Popov said,
“It is an incredible story, something I could not dream of a week ago. It is incredible
that golf allows these things to happen and as one of 144 players this week, I just
happened to have the week of my life. It is probably the best golf I have ever
played.”

Three weeks
ago the 27-year-old could never have dreamt of this moment as she played the role
of caddie at the LPGA Drive On Championship for best friend Anne Van Dam and
only qualified for this championship courtesy of a T9 finish a week later. A T2
finish in Arizona last week on the Symetra Tour gave her some confidence but no
one predicted this, least of all Popov.

“Everyone said, how are you playing in Phoenix the week
before The Open? I said, you know, my focus this year was still the Symetra
Tour and that was more important to me as far as the Money List goes, and I
said, I’m going to stick with the schedule that I had. The AIG Women’s Open to
me was a bonus and I got here on Tuesday, and I said I know my game is in
really good shape and anything’s possible and I think I took that belief with
me to every round but I never expected this.”

Popov, who has he boyfriend on the bag, stumbled initially with a bogey at the first hole but immediately bounced back with gains on Nos. 2,3 and 6, as Thailand’s Jasmine Suwannapura reeled her in with four consecutive birdies from the 5th hole.

TROON, SCOTLAND – AUGUST 23: Sophia Popov of Germany (R) and boyfriend/caddie Maximilian Mehles pose with the trophy following the final round during Day Four of the 2020 AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon on August 23, 2020 in Troon, Scotland. (Photo by R&A – Handout/R&A via Getty Images)

Keeping her
nose in front by one, Popov took control on the back-nine, helped by a pair of
Suwannapura bogeys, and stamped her authority on the tournament with a crucial
par save from 10ft on the par four 11th hole before making birdies
on the 15th and 16th to take her to eight-under-par.

Holding
back the tears on the 18th green, Popov defied the odds and
triumphed against a world-class international field and, despite a closing
bogey, was overwhelmed when her fellow professionals stormed the green with
champagne.  

“I’m
glad I didn’t think about the prize money going down the 18th hole
but I was a lot calmer than I thought I would be throughout the day. When I hit
the green on the 17th, that is where the tension came in.”

Reflecting
on the victory, Popov continued,It feels amazing. There’s a
lot of hard work behind it, and a lot of struggles that I went through the last
six years, especially health-wise, and I’m just glad I was able to overcome
everything and just keep my head in it.
I think we are going to have a thorough
celebration at the hotel, social distanced of course. But as soon as I get
home, it will be a little more extensive.”

Thailand’s
Suwannapura recorded her highest major finish, ending the tournament in solo
second after a round of 67 (-4), followed closely in third by Australia’s
Minjee Lee, who closed with a 69 (-2).

Seven-time
major winner and former AIG Women’s Open champion down the road at Turnberry,
Inbee Park was a further two stroke back in solo fourth and threatened to play a
bigger role in the early afternoon with five birdies on the front nine. Unable
to replicate that form on the back nine, Park made two further birdies and bogey
on the 12th to shoot a final round 66 (-5).

Denmark’s
Emily Kristine Pedersen increased her lead in the Race to Costa Del Sol
rankings with a T11 finish, she is more than 75 points ahead of her nearest
rival, Azahara Munoz, who jumped up from fourth place, courtesy of a T39 finish.
 

Spoils as
the top Brit were shared between Northern Ireland’s Stephanie Meadow and
Englishwomen Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Mel Reid who finished T39.

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