When Sophia Popov (Heidelberg, Germany) isn’t on the golf course, she’s watching tennis. She used to play growing up and is a big fan.
“It’s like when you’re a set back in tennis and you know you have to play well otherwise you won’t get to the third set,” said Popov, comparing her current position on the money list. “I can play pretty aggressively because I know I won’t drop out of the top 25 (exempt to Final Stage of LPGA Qualifying Tournament). It’s tough, I want to be in the top 10 really badly, but so do the girls up in front of me. None of those girls are going to play bad the next four or five tournaments so it’s all about beating them.”
Two nights ago, Popov was watching the Juan Martin del Potro match at the U.S. Open. He appeared to be buried - two sets down and suffering from a virus - and won in five sets.
“(Rafael) Nadal is one of those guys where he could be two sets down and I’d bet money that he’d win in five,” said Popov. “I compare tennis to golf a lot. They could hit safe shots or they could go for the line and it’s the same here. You have to hit winner’s at this point. Even if you short side yourself, you have to go for pins.”
Popov, who ranks 13th on the money list with five top 10 finishes, will play four of the final five events to try and squeeze into the final top 10 to earn her LPGA Tour card back. She played on the LPGA in 2015 straight out of USC. She will skip the Guardian Championship in Prattville, Alabama to rest up for the final two tournaments.
“The last time I tried to play six events in a row, I was so tired at the end and I know a couple other players were saying the same thing,” said Popov. “It’ll be a good break for me to skip Alabama and then I’ll have two tournaments left and I can recuperate. I have a good plan and I just have to execute.”
Popov wants to see two things over the final month: consistency and a top finish. For example, a first place finish this week would net her $22,500 and could move her as high as fifth on the money list.
“I need a pretty big jump to get into the top 10 and I know that,” said Popov. “On one hand, I don’t want to put myself under too much pressure, but at the same time, I can play pretty aggressively because I know I need a good finish.”
Popov was in a similar predicament last year. After the Garden City Charity Classic, she was also 13th on the money list and finished 14th.
“I think I learned that I kind of tried to play it safe,” said Popov. “I have to put a little more pressure on myself a little earlier to be more aggressive. I need to be aggressive now and not just hang on spot 13 or 14 (on the money list) until the final tournament because then you just have to play a good tournament to get a card. I don’t want to have all the pressure on that tournament in Daytona.”