What golf fans witnessed over the weekend were two historic performances – one by Sophia Popov at the Women’s Open Championship at Royal Troon – and the other by the enigma that is Dustin Johnson.
And Tiger Woods wasn’t even involved.
Across the pond, Sophia Popov defied the elements and the odds to win, not only her first LPGA event, but her first major. Stateside, DJ torched the field at the Northern Trust at 30-under-par 254 to win by 11 shots in an astounding display of golf.
So, which win was the better win? It depends on your perspective. The view from here is that Popov had the better of the two victories.
Why? Popov really was a Cinderella story. Let’s face it, players ranked No. 304 in the world are not supposed to take on the elite players and win. And while Popov certainly is an accomplished golfer, she admitted to being close to quitting the game.
She only got into the Women’s Open because she finished ninth at the recent Marathon LPGA Classic. And she only got into that tournament because the LPGA Tour filled out the field with Symetra Tour players due to travel restrictions on foreign players.
How improbable was Popov’s win? It’s akin to Miguel Tabuena, who is ranked No. 303 in the world, waltzing his way to Winged Foot in a couple of weeks and winning by two shots. Probably not gonna happen.
I’m not sure anybody expected Popov to hold up in Sunday’s final round, but she did by playing steady, solid golf. And kudos to her for not just holding on, but by outplaying all of those in pursuit.
But what about Dustin Johnson and his staggering 11-shot win at the Northern Trust?
It’s hard to argue how dominant his victory was. Given the depth of fields these days on the PGA Tour, it’s crazy to think anybody – Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, etc., can win by more than a couple shots.
What DJ did was lap the field. The guy hit an incredible 65 of 72 greens in regulation. Most of us struggle to hit 10 of 18 on a good day. The next closest in terms of greens in regulation was 58. DJ’s performance was otherworldly, no doubt.
For me, what sets apart Popov’s victory was the unpredictability of it on a great golf course under major conditions. DJ, when he is on, is arguably the best player in the world. He’s capable of winning every time he tees it up. While he put on an impeccable display in running away with the win, I’ll say Popov’s was the better win. More than that, it was a life-changer for the German golfer who only had $108,000 in LPGA Tour earnings before Sunday.
Gregg Dewalt is the editor of Alabama Golf News.
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Featured image: LPGA Tour