304th-Ranked Sophia Popov Wins 2020 Women's British Open

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2020

Sophia Popov of Germany follows through on her tee shot on the second 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

Despite entering the 2020 Women's British Open as the 304th-ranked player in the world with no LPGA Tour wins on her resume, Sophia Popov held off the field to win the prestigious major tournament at Royal Troon Golf Club in Troon, South Ayrshire, Scotland, on Sunday. 

Popov, who entered the final round with a three-stroke lead, shot a three-under 68 on Sunday and finished at seven under for the tournament, two strokes ahead of Jasmine Suwannapura in second place.

Here is a rundown of the top finishers, courtesy of the AIG Women's Open's official website:

1. Sophia Popov: -7 (68)

2. Jasmine Suwannapura: -5 (67)

3. Minjee Lee: -3 (69)

4. Inbee Park: -1 (66)

5. Austin Ernst: E (70)

6. Momoko Ueda: +1 (67)

T7. In Gee Chun: +2 (69)

T7. Andrea Lee: +2 (69)

T7. Jennifer Song: +2 (70)

T7. Caroline Masson: +2 (72)

It is fair to say that Popov is one of the most unlikely major champions in the history of golf, especially since she hadn't enjoyed much success on the LPGA Tour prior to this week, as pointed out by Monday Q Info:

Monday Q Info @acaseofthegolf1

MC-MC-MC-MC-T51-MC-MC-MC-MC-MC-T54-T21-MC-T35-T57-T13-MC-MC-T68-MC-T72-T41-MC-MC-MC-T49-MC-T55-MC-T71-MC This is Sophia Popov career finishes on the LPGA Tour. Really is a great story.

Adam Shadoff of Fox35 in Orlando, Florida, compared Popov's win to two of the most shocking major championship results in PGA Tour history:

Adam Shadoff @FOX35Adam

Shaun Micheel was 169 in the world when he won the PGA Championship. Ben Curtis was 396 and making his Major Championship debut when he won The Open. Sophia Popov is 304 in the world rankings if you want some perspective on what’s happening at the @AIGWomensOpen right now.

No Laying Up provided a long list of reasons why few could have expected Popov to prevail at Royal Troon as well:

No Laying Up @NoLayingUp

A great read for perspective on what’s going on at the Women’s British Open right now. Sophia Popov: -Doesn’t have LPGA status -Ranked 304 in the world -Caddied for Anne van Dam at Inverness -Shared a push cart with Anne at Marathon -Leads the Women’s British Open! https://t.co/Bn2Q1t5oFx

While Popov had a nice cushion entering the final round, a win was far from guaranteed since Jasmine Suwannapura and Minjee Lee were her closest competitors, and each had won multiple LPGA Tour tournaments in their careers.

Popov's fourth round got off to a shaky start with a bogey on the first, but she rebounded quickly with birdies on the second and third:

AIG Women’s Open @AIGWomensOpen

Gutsy from the leader Popov. After a bogey at the 1st she bounces straight back with a birdie at the 2nd! #AIGWO #WorldClass https://t.co/zJFVtL1eJm

AIG Women’s Open @AIGWomensOpen

Sophia Popov extends her lead to four shots with successive birdies #AIGWO #WorldClass Full scoring 👉 https://t.co/qCIyw8Ccy7 https://t.co/IX29enG7In

The U.S.-born golfer representing Germany added another birdie on the par-five sixth to extend her lead even more before making the turn:

AIG Women’s Open @AIGWomensOpen

Sophia Popov is handling the pressure! She now has three birdies through six holes. #AIGWO #WorldClass https://t.co/FsNILYomn4

After playing steady golf and carding eight consecutive pars, Popov came through with her fourth birdie of the day on No. 15 thanks largely to a remarkable approach shot from the deep rough:

AIG Women’s Open @AIGWomensOpen

Wow. Sophia Popov with another birdie and she's on the brink of the biggest day of her career.  3 more holes to navigate! #AIGWO #WorldClass https://t.co/vVpccTgoF7

Popov delivered another birdie on the 16th and entered the final two holes with a four-shot lead by virtue of her stellar play:

AIG Women’s Open @AIGWomensOpen

Extraordinary stuff from Popov. Another birdie and she's now got a 4 shot lead with two holes to play #AIGWO #WorldClass https://t.co/Pi7AEJa4fL

With Suwannapura and Lee too far back to truly make a run, Popov played steady golf over the final two holes to seal the victory.

She needed only a tap-in bogey to become a Women's British Open champion and win $675,000 in the process:

AIG Women’s Open @AIGWomensOpen

A week that will change her life! A truly #WorldClass performance from Sophia Popov. #AIGWO https://t.co/YuKpgOiqjJ

While Popov came through in the clutch and staved off those in pursuit of her, there was a time early in the final round when it seemed like Suwannapura or Lee might have a chance to chase her down.

From Nos. 4 through 7, Suwannapura carded four consecutive birdies, including this one on the par-five sixth:

AIG Women’s Open @AIGWomensOpen

'Game very much on' Jasmine Suwannapura is one shot off the lead #AIGWO #WorldClass https://t.co/XusYPkQmwa

Suwannapura damaged her chances significantly on the back nine, though, with bogeys on Nos. 11 and 13.

Lee also got off to a strong start with two birdies on the front nine:

AIG Women’s Open @AIGWomensOpen

Lee is on the board! Minjee opens her account on five, and is just three off the lead! #AIGWO #WorldClass https://t.co/ew4q1RMKh4

She added another on the 16th, but Popov was already playing so well at that point that there was no chasing her down.

Although she never truly had a chance to contend, Inbee Park enjoyed one of the most impressive rounds of the tournament Sunday, as she shot a five-under 66, which featured seven birdies, including four in a row on the front nine:

AIG Women’s Open @AIGWomensOpen

Brilliant stuff from Inbee Park.   Four birdies in a row and she's now within three shots of the lead. #AIGWO #WorldClass https://t.co/jUvAzd3QpF

The 32-year-old Park is one of the greatest female golfers of all time with seven major championships to her credit, and she showed that type of form Sunday by establishing herself as one of only four golfers to finish under par for the tournament.

For as good as Park was, the day belonged to Popov, as she went from a fairly anonymous golfer to an LPGA Tour star by winning the British Open.

Popov will forever be known as a major champion, but the big challenge now is proving it wasn't a fluke, and her first chance to show that in a major will be the ANA Inspiration beginning Sept. 10.