It’s all change at the top of men’s golf — again — while Sophia Popov captured headlines and hearts at the first women’s major of the year. AFP Sport’s golf talking points:
– Revolving door –
In just over four months of PGA Tour golf played so far in a coronavirus-ravaged year, there have already been five world number ones.
Dustin Johnson was the latest to enter through the revolving door after leaving an elite field trailing a very distant second in Boston at the weekend.
Johnson’s romp to an 11-stroke victory after finishing a scarcely believable 30-under par for 72 holes, his second win since the restart in June, saw him leapfrog from fourth to the top spot for the first time since May 2019.
Brooks Koepka started 2020 on top, but was overtaken by Rory McIlroy in February.
Spain’s Jon Rahm took number one for the first time with victory at the Memorial last month only to lose it to Justin Thomas, who then relinquished it to Rahm a week later. Now it’s Johnson’s time again.
“It’s something that I’m very proud of, to be number one in the world and I’d like to stay there for a little while,” Johnson said.
“It’s been jumping around a bunch here the last few months, but the last time I was number one, I think I stayed there for quite some time, and that’s another goal of mine: to see how long I can stay at number one.”
Overall, Johnson has been number one for a total of 91 weeks, the fifth-most of all time. The only American with more weeks at the top is Tiger Woods, with 683.
– Popov: caddie to major-winner –
Someone in Hollywood should sign up the film rights to Sophia Popov’s story, and quickly, after her shock victory in the Women’s British Open at Troon.
The German, who started the tournament ranked 304th in the world, was in tears as she recalled how chronic illness and the loss of her tour card had left her contemplating giving up the game.
Three weeks ago she was caddying on the LPGA Tour, just hoping for a chance to tee up, but now she finds herself ranked in the elite world’s top 25.
The 27-year-old until recently had endured a three-year undiagnosed battle with the tick-borne Lyme disease, causing her to lose 11 kilogrammes (23lb).
“It took about 20 doctor visits three years later to figure it out,” she told reporters.
Popov lost her LPGA card and then came the global pandemic and a decision to freeze players’ statuses, leaving her facing two years on the second-tier Symetra Tour.
Reduced to caddying for friend Anne van Dam at the first LPGA event of the restart, Popov found out she had made the field for the following week’s Marathon LPGA Classic, despite her low ranking.
“A lot of players didn’t want to come to the States, either from Europe or from Asia,” Popov explained. “I took advantage of it and used the opportunity to get here.”
A tied ninth in Ohio earned one of 10 qualifying spots for the British Open and two weeks later she made history as the first German woman to win a golf major. Fairytale stuff indeed.
– Refs reach final green –
The world of professional golf will mark the end of an era in October when two unsung heroes retire.
John Paramor and Andy McFee, two of the most respected rules officials in the global game, announced they will be calling time on careers that have spanned more than 80 years.
Paramor, 65, started with the European Tour in April 1976 while McFee, 62, was later to the party in September 1983.
They have been patrolling the world’s fairways at almost every leading event from majors to Ryder Cups since, offering advice to players on the game’s bewildering rule book.
They have been called in to deal with everything from the routine, such as penalty shots and slow play, to the bizarre, such as wasp stings and relief from burrowing animals.
Their final event together will be the European Tour PGA Championship at Wentworth in October.
“The word I use about John is gravitas,” McFee said. “He has empathy with the players and he is honest and fair. When John Paramor speaks about the rules of golf, people listen.”
– World rankings –
New Open champion Sophia Popov takes a massive leap in the new world golf rankings, rising from 304th to 24th after her maiden major triumph at Troon. Top 10s, week beginning August 24, 2020:
1. Dustin Johnson (USA) 9.16 (+3)
2. Jon Rahm (ESP) 8.81 (-1)
3. Justin Thomas (USA) 8.56 (-1)
4. Rory McIlroy (NIR) 8.02 (-1)
5. Collin Morikawa (USA) 7.45
6. Webb Simpson (USA) 7.12
7. Brooks Koepka (USA) 6.16
8. Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 6.09
9. Patrick Reed (USA) 5.92
10. Xander Schauffele (USA) 5.53
1. Ko Jin-young (KOR) 7.97
2. Danielle Kang (USA) 6.35
3. Park Sung-hyun (KOR) 5.57
4. Nelly Korda (USA) 5.53
5. Minjee Lee (AUS) 5.31 (+3)
6. Kim Sei-young (KOR) 5.10
7. Nasa Hataoka (JPN) 5.01 (-2)
8. Park In-bee (KOR) 4.88 (+4)
9. Brooke Henderson (CAN) 4.74 (-2)
10. Kim Hyo-joo (KOR) 4.48 (-1)
24. Sophia Popov (GER) 2.86 (+280)