The AIG Women's Open produced another unlikely winner in Sophia Popov, while the men's game has its fifth World No 1 of 2020. Alex Perry wraps up the action
For the second year in a row, the AIG Women’s Open ends with the most unlikely of champions. Following Hinako Shibuno’s win at Woburn last year – the first time she had competed outside of her native Japan – Sophia Popov lifted the title at Royal Troon.
The German started the week ranked 304th in the Rolex Rankings.
Last year, Popov missed out on earning her LPGA Tour card by a single shot at Q Series. Then the global pandemic extended her time on the Symetra Tour. While all the main tours shut down for a few months, Popov played on the Cactus Tour, where she won three times.
Popov then returned to main tour action at the LPGA Drive On Championship – as a caddie. She carried close friend Anne van Dam’s bag at Inverness Club. The following week, for the Marathon Classic, she made it into a field made up largely of Symetra Tour players and finished 9th. That was enough to book a spot at Troon.
Fast forward two weeks and she’s a major champion.
Popov led by three through 54 holes at Troon, her marvellous bogey-free 67 in the third round highlighted by a driver off the deck that set up an eagle at the 4th, and we all wondered where it might go when the 27-year-old bogeyed the opening hole on Sunday.
But she birdied the next two to recover and was coolness personified with eight straight pars to stay in control throughout. Then, with Jasmine Suwannapura and Minjee Lee breathing down her neck, Popov, who putted beautifully all week, rolled in further gains at 15 and 16 to set up the victory.
And what a difference one tournament can make. Before flying to Scotland, Popov had earned $108,000 in her LPGA career. She will leave with a winner’s cheque for $675,000.
In her understandably emotional winner’s speech, she explained how she almost quit the game last year.
“Thank God I didn’t,” she said with a beaming smile.
- Related: Final 2020 Women’s Open leaderboard
- Related: Women’s Open final round highlights
- Related: What’s in Popov’s bag?
World No 1 changes hands again
In the men’s game, golf has its fifth World No 1 of 2020 after Dustin Johnson cruised to victory at the Northern Trust, the first of the FedEx Cup play-offs.
So far this year, top spot in the rankings has been held by Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas.
Johnson’s results since the PGA Tour returned to action have been absurd.
He won the Travelers in June, including a then career-low 61 before carding back-to-back rounds of 80 to miss the cut at the Memorial. An opening-round 78 followed before withdrawing at the 3M Open, and since then he has recorded 12 straight rounds in the 60s.
That run culminated in an astonishing performance at TPC Boston, which included him being just one birdie from a 59.
Scottie Scheffler had already put himself in the club to break 60 on the PGA Tour when Johnson went 11-under through 11 only to par his way home for the most disappointing 60 in golf history.
Still, the career-low round was enough to propel him to a whopping 11-shot victory at 30-under-par – just one shy of Ernie Els PGA Tour record.
In fact, let’s just leave it to the main man when it comes to stats – Justin Ray…
- Related: What’s in DJ’s bag?
Langasque gets over the line in Wales
For people that follow all levels of golf, Romain Langasque was best known for winning the Amateur Championship at Carnoustie in 2015.
A few months later he thrashed a certain Bryson DeChambeau 4&3 in the 2016 Georgia Cup – a match play showdown between the Amateur and US Amateur champions – to book a spot at following week’s Masters, where the pair would go on to be the only amateurs to make the cut in the year Danny Willett slipped into the Green Jacket.
Now the Frenchman is a European Tour winner after a two-shot victory at the ISPS Handa Wales Open.
Langasque carded a round-of-the-day 65 at Celtic Manor to edge out Sami Valimaki and book a US Open debut next month.
- Related: What’s in Langasque’s bag?
Follow NCG on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for the latest equipment and golf course reviews and exclusive interviews.