Positives for Popov after debut match at Solheim Cup | LPGA

It’s 377 days since the fateful day at the Royal Troon since Sophia Popov did the unimaginable. The German’s victory at the AIG Women’s Open in August last year absolutely shook the golf world. The ripple effects of that victory are still being felt all the time later.

Popov will make his Solheim Cup debut in Toledo this week, and even now the unlikely day in Scotland is still coming. But the Team Europe rookie has his sights set on a solid show at the Inverness Club and on realizing a dream that has been going on for quite some time for the 28-year-old.

“It’s an absolute dream,” Popov said. “I’ve always wanted to be a part of this team and I think in 2015, when I commented or one of the other years, it was always one of the things I missed. Clearly, winning a major is every female golfer’s dream, and the British Open was very, very special to me, because for me it’s the biggest one coming from Europe. Those were my two biggest goals, and now it means a lot to me to be able to achieve the other. ”

Making a Solheim Cup team is an achievement that always tops the list for female professionals from Europe and the USA. Popov strives to live in the now and make the most of the opportunity she has to wear the blue and yellow. Although the competition requires the most robust of nerves, there is something to be said for just having fun, and that is something the rookie has already excelled at in Ohio.

“I’m fine now,” Popov said. “Being out here with a lot of girls that I’m good friends with and that I really enjoy being around has just been so much fun. I really take a lot in the atmosphere. I like to dance and sing, so it’s been a theme for me, and I’ve just been having fun and trying to pick it up, because I know this week is going really fast. I am very, very honored to have resumed the colors and I will give it my best this week. ”

Although she sat for the morning session on Saturday, Popov took it up with partner Carlota Ciganda against Jennifer Kupcho and Lizette Salas for the fourball session in the afternoon. The German told her caddy early in the day that she was ridiculously nervous about the upcoming match, but she certainly did not show it after the first shots were in the air.

The first highlight of her cup career came on the fifth when Popov curled a long birdie in to win the hole, giving the crowd a massive Tigeresque fist pump. Another birdie from her on the seventh set Euro 2-up with 11 left to play. The Americans quickly tied the match with an eagle on the eighth and birdie on the tenth and went 1-up after matching threes on the 14th.

Popov stepped up to the plate on the 16th and knocked her 131-yard approach to a foot and tie the fight after converting birdie. Pars on the 17th sent the teams to the 18th. While the half looked imminent, Salas beat her approach to six feet, made the putt and put a full point on the board for Team USA. Although a loss was not exactly what Popov had in mind for his debut, there were still plenty of positive things to take away from the first day in Toledo.

“I think we actually played really well,” Popov said of her and Ciganda’s performance. “I think ball shots were wise, we both had a really good day. We made quite a few putts. But we did not make the key putts in the key moments. Kudos to them. They played really well and they made these putts when needed. Finishing with a birdie in a not very easy pin position was extremely good for Lizette. It’s a shame because I felt we deserved the victory today. But that’s what it is. This is how match play takes place. ”

Having an experienced partner in Ciganda also helped Popov soothe the nerves and anxiety that come with the first hours area. Rookies always tend to credit their veteran partners with keeping them calm in the adrenaline rush that accompanies every shot that was hit in a Solheim, and Popov was no exception.

“This is my first Solheim Cup. I was definitely nervous the first few holes,” Popov said. “I hit two great shots at 2, and that kind of calmed me down. And I think I started with No. 4 on playing very good golf. It’s always easier to play with someone like Chiggy because she calmed me down. “She’s a veteran. She hit some nice punches throughout the round, that kind of reassured me because I know if I’m not in, she’s in.”

But Ciganda was happy to see her smooth stuff out after a slow start.

“Sophia played great,” said the Spaniard. “First match, first Solheim Cup, she started a little shaky, then she hit great shots. She was comfortable and made great putts. We played well. ”

As she looks to tomorrow and the rest of the weekend, Popov has plenty of good speed to run into her upcoming fights. Although she sits again for the morning foursomes session on Sunday, she looks forward to potentially being paired again with Ciganda and believes that if the duo can continue their stellar play, they will be a deadly test for their opponents.

“I think it was a great way, to be honest, to get into the Solheim Cup. I feel good. I’m excited to go into tomorrow’s matches. I loved every minute of playing with Chiggy. She is fantastic. I think if we play like that again, I think it’s going to be hard to beat us. ”

It’s too early to tell, but you can be sure that Popov, one day older and one day wiser, with nerves reassured after a solid day, is ready and much more prepared to help his team to Solheim Cup. Now she has found a foothold, it seems that the rookie could quickly become a game-changer for the Europeans, one who again could surprise us all.

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