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Popov seeking unlikely Troon double


Leader looks to follow recent triumph at Troon North in Arizona

Sophia Popov at the end of her third round at Royal Troon

When Sophia Popov triumphed in May’s Cactus Tour event at Troon North Golf Club in Arizona, she received $2,300.

Fast forward three months and the world number 304 is in pole position to claim $675,000 for winning the AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon.

It is fair to say nobody, not even Popov herself, could have predicted the German would lead by three shots ahead of Sunday’s final round.

“As far as seeing myself in this spot a week or two ago, definitely not,” said Popov, after a stunning, bogey-free 67 lifted her to four under on Saturday.

As recently as three weeks ago, she carried the bag of close friend Anne van Dam at the LPGA Drive On Championship, with local caddies unavailable for the event due to COVID-19 restrictions.

A week later, Popov, who doesn't have a 2020 LPGA Tour card, found herself in the field at the Marathon Classic and took full advantage of an opportunity to impress.

A T9 finish not only represented her first ever top-10 finish on the Tour, but it also earned her a place at the AIG Women’s Open for only the second time, following her debut as an amateur back in 2011.

After maintaining her fine form with a second-place finish on the Symetra Tour, Popov headed to Royal Troon high on confidence. Her performances so far in South Ayrshire have been nothing short of magnificent.

She was one of only three players to break par in round one, shooting a one-under 70, and then showed immense character to hold position on Friday afternoon in strong winds.

The only player on her side of the draw to be among the leaders after round two, Popov began Moving Day at one under, just a single shot behind leader Dani Holmqvist.

As Holmqvist faded in round three, Popov displayed her best form yet, with a stunning four-under round that featured birdies at the 12th and 17th, and a truly spectacular eagle on the fourth, where she hit a driver from the fairway to eight feet.

Popov now has the opportunity to record her first main-tour victory in extraordinary circumstances. If she can follow her win at Troon North by triumphing at Royal Troon, it will be a life-changing success.