Women's British Open 2020: Sophia Popov Takes 3-Stroke Lead into Final Round

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2020

Sophia Popov of Germany putts on the first hole during the final round of the Marathon Classic LPGA golf tournament Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020, at the Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Germany's Sophia Popov surged into the lead at the Women's British Open on Saturday, as she shot a four-under 67 in the third round at Royal Troon Golf Club in Troon, South Ayrshire, Scotland.

Popov entered the day tied for second, one shot behind Dani Holmqvist, but Holmqvist fell apart and carded a six-over 77. Entering Sunday's final round, Popov sits at four under and holds a three-stroke lead over Minjee Lee and Jasmine Suwannapura in second.

Here is a look at the top of the leaderboard, courtesy of the AIG Women's Open's official website:

1. Sophia Popov: -4 (67)

T2. Minjee Lee: -1 (69)

T2. Jasmine Suwannapura: -1 (69)

T4. Caroline Masson: +1 (68)

T4. Lindsey Weaver: +1 (71)

T4. Andrea Ernst: +1 (72)

T7. Kristen Gillman: +2 (72)

T7. Lydia Ko: +2 (72)

T7. Emily Kristine Pedersen: +2 (72)

T10. Three golfers tied at +3

Popov's place atop the leaderboard is unexpected to say the least, as she has never won an LPGA event and has never finished better than tied for 57th in a major championship.

Beth Ann Nichols of Golfweek further explained just how improbable Popov leading the Women's British Open through 54 holes is:

Beth Ann Nichols @GolfweekNichols

Two weeks ago I'm talking to Sophia Popov about sharing a pull cart with Anne van Dam at the Marathon. Cool story given that Popov had caddied for van Dam at Inverness one week prior. Now Popov leads a major championship on the weekend. A wild turn of events.

Popov made her first big move of the third round on the par-five fourth. Thanks to a beautiful, low drive that got her on the green in two, Popov managed to card an eagle and move into first place:

AIG Women’s Open @AIGWomensOpen

Stunning driver off the deck from Sophia Popov at the 4th. The German eagles to leapfrog the leaders and move to -2. #AIGWO #WorldClass Full scoring 👉 https://t.co/qCIyw8Ccy7 https://t.co/h8Ksy9Tp1o

After seven pars in a row, Popov made her first birdie putt of the day on the par-four 12th to extend her lead:

AIG Women’s Open @AIGWomensOpen

Sophia Popov has been flawless so far today.  She gets to -3 with a birdie at the 12th #AIGWO #WorldClass https://t.co/HMs4fMn93z

A Jasmine Suwannapura bogey on the 18th provided Popov with even more distance between her and the field, and she widened a bit more on the 17th with another birdie:

AIG Women’s Open @AIGWomensOpen

Popov's putting is on point today as she rolls a lovely putt on 17 for birdie to take a three shot lead #AIGWO #WorldClass https://t.co/Xqz7TdONCH

The two golfers who are three shots behind Popov in second, Lee and Suwannapura, both enjoyed solid days with rounds of two-under 69 to remain in the hunt.

Lee was looking especially good early on with back-to-back birdies on Nos. 3 and 4, and even shared the lead at one point:

AIG Women’s Open @AIGWomensOpen

Minjee Lee with a solid start. This birdie moves her to even par for the Championship #AIGWO #WorldClass Full scoring 👉 https://t.co/qCIyw8Ccy7 https://t.co/aQyh2PnC2R

AIG Women’s Open @AIGWomensOpen

Back-to-back birdies for Minjee Lee who now shares the lead with Dani Holmqvist #AIGWO #WorldClass  Full scoring 👉 https://t.co/qCIyw8Ccy7 https://t.co/XCkR3xiqFT

She added another birdie on the 13th, but she also had a bogey on the previous hole, and she played the back nine at even par.

Suwannapura came out of the gates strong with a birdie on the par-four second to get herself to even par for the tournament:

AIG Women’s Open @AIGWomensOpen

Jasmine Suwannapura moves to within one shot of the lead after a birdie at the 2nd #AIGWO #WorldClass Full scoring 👉 https://t.co/qCIyw8Ccy7 https://t.co/GjUqHbV3nT

The Thailand native then carded consecutive birdies on the 13th and 14th and looked to be a strong candidate to enter the final round with the lead:

AIG Women’s Open @AIGWomensOpen

Back-to-back birdies for Jasmine Suwannapura who moves to -2 #AIGWO #WorldClass https://t.co/IcScrEjwuq

Suwannapura played the final four holes at one over, though, which kept her three off the pace behind Popov.

Popov has a nice cushion entering the fourth round, but her lead is far from safe given all Lee and Suwannapura have accomplished in their careers.

Lee is a five-time winner on the LPGA Tour and has finished 11th or better in ever major tournament. Meanwhile, Suwannapura has two LPGA Tour wins and finished tied for 11th at the Women's British Open two years ago.

Popov has never been in this position during her career, but if she can come anywhere close to replicating Saturday's round, she will be the golfer to beat Sunday.