Popov’s shock Open win not enough to se­cure place in ma­jors

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Rugby Union - By James Cor­ri­gan golf cor­re­spon­dent

Sophia Popov awoke yes­ter­day to discover that al­though her vic­tory in the AIG Women’s Open had lifted her a re­mark­able 280 places in the world rank­ings, it had not been enough to earn the 27-year-old a spot in two of the year’s re­main­ing three ma­jors.

The Ger­man stunned the sport at Royal Troon by be­ly­ing her sta­tus as a golfer with­out play­ing priv­i­leges on any of the ma­jor cir­cuits with her first pro­fes­sional win.

And it is the fact that the world No 304 did not have an LPGA Tour card that has led to an ab­surd sit­u­a­tion which threat­ens to leave her on the side­lines when the Ana In­spi­ra­tion tees off in three weeks.

The fa­mous com­pe­ti­tion in Palm Springs, Cal­i­for­nia – for­ever known to many as the Di­nah Shore – was post­poned in March and the Tour froze the field, while al­low­ing for the pos­si­bil­ity of any non-ex­empt player in the top 20 of the or­der of merit to re­ceive a late in­vi­ta­tion.

How­ever, while Popov’s $675,000 win­nings put her top of the Tour’s money list, they do not count as she was not a Tour mem­ber at the time. So the new world No 24 is in an un­prece­dented sit­u­a­tion for a ma­jor win­ner.

“Hope­fully the LPGA sees sense be­cause it does look so silly at the mo­ment,” an in­sider told The Daily Telegraph. “With many of the Kore­ans likely to stay away be­cause of Covid-19 – just as they did for Troon – there should be gaps that will make the so­lu­tion easy to fix. But it may not be so sim­ple for the US Women’s Open.”

The last ma­jor of the year is not due to take place un­til De­cem­ber and that field is al­ready full. The feel­ing is that the United States Golf As­so­ci­a­tion will have to add a spot to ac­com­mo­date Popov, whose fairy-tale story from cad­die to ma­jor win­ner in three weeks has made head­lines across the globe.

Popov car­ried the bag for her friend Anne van Dam at the Drive On Cham­pi­onship last month, be­fore earn­ing her­self a late berth in Troon and tak­ing max­i­mum ad­van­tage. On Sun­day night, Popov had talked emo­tion­ally about al­most quit­ting the game last year, be­cause of “in­juries”.

But she has now re­vealed that, in her rookie year in 2014, she con­tracted Lyme Dis­ease, a con­di­tion from which she still suf­fers.

“It was a long road to get here be­cause there was a lot of per­sonal re­search and fig­ur­ing out on my own what would make me feel bet­ter, and I’m glad I got to the point where I’m feel­ing pretty good, and hope­fully it stays that way,” Popov said.

Else­where in the men’s rank­ings, Dustin Johnson has re­turned to world No 1 af­ter 15 months.

The Amer­i­can won the North­ern Trust by a record 11 shots on Sun­day and is now in pole po­si­tion to scoop the $15mil­lion FedEx Cup bounty at next week’s Tour Cham­pi­onship.

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