Women’s Open and PGA Playoff recap

(Photo Courtesy of GolfTime)

With all that’s going wrong in the world right now, it’s nice (essential?) to escape, and last week was a great one for escaping. Here’s your overview:

Sophia Popov 
This has to be the story of the week. In case you missed the final round (and because NBC only set aside an hour of network time to show it and the last shot dropped 30 minutes into that slot, you probably did), Popov came up clutch down the stretch to hold off a charging Jasmine Suwannapura. Popov made long birdie putts at 15 and 16 while Suwannapura was a hole ahead making birdies at 16 and 17 and applying pressure. It was thrilling stuff on an amazing venue. As I mentioned in a recent piece about the LPGA, the LPGA got it right when they started pushing to hold majors at famous courses. And the fact that I’d never heard of Popov or Suwannapura before this week didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying the ride!

The shot of the week had to be Popov’s approach shot from 250 yards out on the par 5 4th hole on Saturday. She hit a perfect draw with a driver to about 8 feet and made the eagle putt (see the 1:15 mark in the video below). By the way, you’ll notice that I didn’t say “driver off the deck”, which has to be the most hackish golf cliche of all time, and I refuse to perpetuate it.  So there.

Popov is an inspirational story of grit and determination. She was dealing with misdiagnosed Lyme disease for several years, and bounced between the Symetra Tour and LPGA Tour after graduating from USC in 2014. After career winnings of $183K on the Symetra Tour and $108K on the LPGA Tour (including $27K at the recent Marathon Championship, which qualified her for the Open as part of an 11 person tie for 9th), the $675K she won at the Women’s Open will be truly life-changing, let alone the doors it will open. 

I have to say it bothered me a little to hear announcers call Popov a “Cinderella story”. Yes, she only had a little experience on the LPGA Tour (and lost her card in 2019), but it’s not like she didn’t have any pedigree. She was a 4-time all-american at USC (only the second from that program to do that), where she won 5 tournaments (tied for most in program history). You don’t win major championships without being made of something special, and the 135 she shot over the weekend showed who deserved it. 

DJ Showed Up!
I consider myself lucky that I’ve never gotten the urge to bet on golf (unlike our guy Greebytime, who will be telling you who NOT to pick for this weekend’s PGA Tour event), because I’m pretty sure I would have lost large amounts of money betting on DJ. He’s been the definition of erratic since the restart, missing the cut in the Charles Schwab Challenge in June, and then winning the Travelers two weeks later, then shot 80-80 at Memorial and WD from the 3M Open in late July after shooting 78 in the opening round. He’s been pretty solid since then (T12 at the WGC, then T2 at the PGA before winning last week), but would you put money on him keeping it going at this week’s BMW Championship? 

Playoff Moves
The FedEx playoffs do a pretty good job of building excitement at the end of the season, and this year has been no exception. This past weekend saw a number of amazing clutch performances by guys chasing a spot at the BMW Championship (top 70 in the points standings get to play). 

Robby Shelton: He started the week at #81 in the rankings, and was well back on Sunday afternoon, sitting at 7-under for the tournament on the 13th tee. All he did from there was go 6-under over the last 6 holes and that allowed him to jump to #62 and earn a spot. 

Louis Oosthuizen: He knew he had to make birdie on the 72nd hole, and sat through a 1 hour plus rain delay stewing on it, but then came up aces with a 235 yard 3-iron that set up a two-putt birdie, and slid into the 70th spot. 

Of course, for every guy sneaking into the top 70, that means some guys went the opposite way. Sung Kang has struggled since the restart, and on Sunday dropped from #61 to #72. Phil Mickelson missed the cut and dropped from #67 to #75, but then shot 61 in his first Champion’s Tour start, so let’s not feel too sorry for him and his silly shades.

Photo courtesy Golfweek – USA Today

Lots more golf fun coming this week!

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