Image: Getty Images - By Harriet Shephard

Sophia Popov dominated Round 3 of the AIG Women's Open and finished four under and three shots ahead going into the final.

But she's not exactly a household name and many of you might not have ever heard of her.

Popov has a German father and American mother and she has quite an incredible story. 

She turned pro in 2014 but she has yet to get a professional win on the LPGA. In fact, she missed out on getting her LPGA card for 2020 and instead had to settle for Symetra Tour status.

She normally plays on mini tours within the USA such as the The Cactus Tour, where she coincidentally won at a course called - wait for it - Troon North, Arizona in May. How spooky is that?

However, it's a safe bet that Troon North is a stark opposite to the dramatic windswept links of Royal Troon.

When the LPGA resumed this summer she started not by playing in the Drive On Championship, Ohio, but by caddying in the event for her best friend and Dutch player Anne Van Dam, known as being one of the biggest hitters on tour.

Then, as so many players couldn't take part due to COVID travel restrictions and being No.1 on the Symetra priority list, she got a suprise start in the LPGA Marathon Classic. Finishing T9, this then secured her a spot in the AIG Women's Open.

This means that within a few months she has gone from caddy and mini-tour player to a contender in one of the biggest Major tournaments on the women's tour.

Plus, if she wins, she will become the first female German player ever to with a Major championship.

But, whether she lifts the trophy or not today, the 27-year-old has done something incredible.

Speaking about the set backs she's faced in her career, she said: 

"I've had, I don't know, maybe three or four years out on the LPGA, and then last year, I basically missed my LPGA status by a shot at Q Series. I got very down on myself. Obviously I'm turning 28 this year, and even though it feels to me like I just graduated last year, I didn't (laughing).

So in my heart, I feel young, but time does go by and I think I was kind of sad about that because I knew my game was better than the status that I had, and then when COVID hit, I think that was -- that really hit me hard, just because I knew, all right, I don't have one season of Symetra, I have two seasons of Symetra. That was a little rough.

But at the same time, those are things that you can't change. This is my life and I think this is how things are supposed to go, and with all the health issues that I battled my rookie year, and then the two or three years after that, I think this, to me, maybe this is the way it should have played out. Definitely had a little bit of a mental slump there during the winter, but I have awesome support from my family and friends and they all said, we know what you can be, and so I fed off of that."

Whatever happens this afternoon, she has her incredible third round, including an amazing eagle on the 4th hole, to be proud of.

Speaking about her amazing success over the last few weeks she said: 

"As far as seeing myself in this spot a week or two ago, definitely not. Although, my golf game I knew was in a good spot. I was joking about it last week. I said, well, you never know, maybe I can get myself in contention next week. Even though I was joking about it, I knew I'm capable of it. I think the expectation in my head has always been there. It's just whether I can make it happen, so it's really nice to see that I can."

She may have joked about it, but now it's actually happening.

We wish her the best of luck this afternoon and in the rest of her career.

2020 AIG Women's Open: Round 3 highlights - READ MORE

Sophia Popov

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