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AIG Women’s Open: Sophia Popov happy to focus on her defence of the title at last

carnoustie women's open
Sophia Popov is defending the AIG Women's Open at Carnoustie.

Even Sophia Popov’s getting a bit sick of seeing herself all over the place ahead of the AIG Women’s Open, so she can’t imagine what others are thinking.

The German’s fairytale win at Royal Troon was the story of the year in women’s golf in 2020. Naturally she’s been in demand for the championship‘s promotion and media work, and generously given a great deal of her time.

Slightly nonplussed at seeing her face everywhere on banners all over the championship site, now Sophia’s a bit relieved to be focused on actually defending her title.

‘I’m getting better at being cool about it’

“There’s been this video that’s been like on a 20-second cycle going on in the clubhouse,” she said. “I think everyone is fed up of seeing me to be honest.

“But everyone still comes by and calls you defending champion. Normally I’m way too humble of a person to even identify with something like that. But this week I can, so I’m just taking it all in, getting better at just accepting that and being all cool about it.”

Sophia obviously gets a berth in the champions’ locker room with all the previous winners. But she’s been in touch with one pretty regularly anyway – Europe’s Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew.

“She’s been texting me after I’ve been playing well just to see how I’m doing and how I’m feeling,” continued Sophia. “I got to play with her yesterday, which was very nice.

“She’s not just someone to talk to only for Solheim Cup purposes, but for a lot of other stuff. She’s been a great help – everything she says sounds really calm.”

‘I think we are all just very excited’

Matthew makes her six wildcard picks on Monday, so has a lot on her plate this week.

“She still has some picks to make,” added Popov. “I think that we would try to help her as much as we can. But it’s up to her at the end of this week. I think we are all just very excited.”

Scotland’s Kelsey MacDonald, who qualified for her first Women’s Open by finishing 15th at last week’s Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open at Dumbarnie, has been given the honour of starting the championship.

The 30-year-old from Nairn will hit the first tee shot, playing with the USA’s Sarah Schmelzel and Chloe Williams from Wales at 6.30 am on Thursday.

Former champion Catriona Matthew is off at 8.47 am with Sweden’s Madeleine Sangstrom and Japanese amateur Tsubasa Kajitani. Aberdeen’s Gemma Dryburgh, who qualified at Panmure on Monday, is playing at 10.04. Her partners are two other successful qualifiers, Lindsey Weaver (USA) and Ssu Chia Cheung of Taiwan.

Another Scot, Kylie Henry, plays at 11.10 am on Thursday with American Emma Talley and Cloe Frankish of England.

Scotland’s British amateur champion Louise Duncan has a great draw. She plays at 11.54 on Thursday in the company of 2018 champion Georgia Hall and the USA’s Megan Khang.

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