Women’s British Open won by world number 304 Sophia Popov
World number 304 Sophia Popov has won the Women’s British Open, tapping in the winning putt through tears.
- Sophia Popov was off the LPGA tour at the end of last year
- She only qualified for the Open via a top-10 finish two weeks ago at a tournament she was playing only because higher-ranked players could not attend
- Australian Minjee Lee, ranked eighth in the world, finished third
She won by two strokes from Thailand’s Jasmine Suwannapura (-5), with Australian Minjee Lee (-3) Royal Troon in Glasgow.
On the 18th green, Popov marked her ball a few inches from the hole, pulled the brim of her cap over her face and began to cry in the arms of her caddie.
Moments later and still wiping away tears, Popov tapped in the putt to complete the win ahead of stars like eighth-ranked Lee and 12th-ranked Korean Park Inbee, who finished fourth on -1.
Popov had never won a senior professional event before and lost her card on the LPGA Tour at the end of last year, only qualifying for the Open via a top-10 finish two weeks ago at the Marathon Classic, which she was playing only because higher-ranked players could not attend due to COVID-19 restrictions.
This was just Popov’s fourth appearance at a major and, as she would later reveal in public for the first time, she has been bothered by health issues for the past six years, notably Lyme disease.
The first female golfer from Germany to win a major title grabbed a winner’s check of US$675,000, which is more than six times her entire career earnings leading into the tournament.
“There’s a lot of hard work behind this, a lot of struggles I went through, especially health-wise,” the 27-year-old said in 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 began with a three-stroke lead but drove into bunker on the first hole and missed a 10-foot par putt, but she barely made a mistake after that, making successive birdies on the second and third
Suwannapura, who also would have been an improbable winner with a ranking of 138, made four straight birdies from the fourth to move within one stroke of the lead but it was the closest she came.
Birdies by Popov at 15 and 16 were greeted with furious fist pumps and she held her nerve on the final two holes, parring the 17th and playing the last cautiously to leave herself three putts to become champion, but she only needed two.
“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.”
Just three weeks ago, Popov was ranked 390th and pushing a trolley for her best friend, Anne van Dam, at the Drive On Championship in the LPGA’s restart.