Sophia Popov, who created one of the golf stories of the year when she won the Women’s Open at Royal Troon, won’t feature in this week’s LPGA season-finale after being overlooked for one of the two sponsor’s invites.
Popov, who lives in Naples, Florida, where this week’s CME Group Tour Championship is set to take place, finished 82nd on the LPGA’s Race to CME Globe Standings this year.
She would have finished 16th on the list if her dramatic victory in August’s Women’s Open had counted but, because she wasn’t a member of the LPGA at the time of her victory, it did not.
The field for this week’s event comprises 72 players, with two spots reserved for the title sponsor to use at their discretion.
Those places have gone to Sarah Kemp, a CME Group ambassador, and Natalie Gulbis, a long-time friend of CME Group chief executive Terry Duffy.
Needless to say, Popov is unimpressed. Speaking to Golfweek, the US-born German said: “It’s a fairness thing as far as playing ability. It’s not like I haven’t earned it. It’s like I have earned it points-wise, technically.”
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LPGA operations officer Heather Daly-Donofrio defended the decision, saying that the exemptions have only been introduced for this year due to extenuating circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In this abnormal 2020 year, the CME Group Tour Championship is slightly different than in the past, allowing more players in the field and offering two sponsor invites,” she said. “In 2021, we expect to return to a 60-player field that is filled strictly off the Race for the CME Globe rankings.”
This is not the first time Popov has been snubbed since she won her maiden major. She was overlooked for a place in the ANA Inspiration and had her five-year LPGA exemption – a perk of winning the Women’s Open – downgraded to just two years as she was not a tour member at the time of her win.