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Underdogs and Dominance: Women’s Open and Northern Trust Review

Northern Trust

What a week for the golf world. For the men, the FedEx Cup Playoffs got underway in Boston with the Northern Trust Open. For the women, it was major week, with the AIG Women’s (British) Open at Royal Troon in Scotland. The men’s tournament featured an unsurprising victor in surprising fashion, while the women’s had a winner no one expected.

As the new golf week begins, new challenges emerge. The playoff field shrunk from 125 to 70, then all the way down to 30 after this weekend. Will the stars be able to stay alive, or will an unfamiliar face make a run up the leaderboard? How will elimination affect preparation for the U.S. Open in less than a month? Most importantly, who will walk away with the $15 million prize after the Tour Championship in Atlanta in a week and a half?

AIG Women’s Open

While Jim Herman winning the Wyndham Championship was surprising, it wasn’t unprecedented. He had won a PGA Tour event as recently as last year. Sure he was 318th in the Official World Golf Rankings, but he had proven he could win on Tour. Sophia Popov hadn’t proven anything like that on the LPGA Tour. While Popov had a better world ranking than Herman (304 in the Rolex Rankings), her story was much more unlikely.

A few weeks ago, Popov was caddying for Anne van Dam. She missed out on a spot on the LPGA Tour this year by a stroke, and the pandemic rendered qualifying for the Tour next year impossible, so she figured she could help out a friend. The next week, few international players decided to play in the Marathon LPGA Classic, so Popov was able to get a spot. van Dam and Popov decided to share a push cart, since neither had a caddy available. She tied for ninth, qualifying her for the Women’s British Open.

Northern Trust
No one could blame Sophia Popov for being overcome with emotion after winning the Women’s Open Championship (via Golf Digest)

Already that’s a pretty good story. A woman with no LPGA Tour wins and no Tour card managed to get a spot in a major without a caddy. Pretty cool. Well then she went and won the thing. From a solid run on the developmental tour to a good run on an Arizona mini-tour to a win on the biggest stage, just like that. One of the funniest parts of the run is a USA Today headline: “Sophia Popov looks to follow three Cactus Tour titles with major victory at Royal Troon.” It perfectly encapsulates the insane unlikeliness of Popov’s run.

Northern Trust Open

Normally, if a golfer goes -19 in a four day tournament on the PGA Tour, he’s at least put himself in contention. Sadly for Harris English, -19 just meant he lost by 11 strokes to Dustin Johnson at TPC Boston. DJ’s -30 week will go down as one of the most dominant the PGA Tour and FedEx Cup Playoffs have ever seen.

Johnson started slowly on Thursday. A one over front nine was followed by a five under back, giving him a four under 67 for the day. Then came Friday. Youngster Scottie Scheffler shot a mind-boggling -12 59. He was looking untouchable. Then Dustin Johnson went seven under through five holes. He finished the front nine at an absurd -9 27. It looked more like the new PGA Tour 2K game than real life. He got to -11 through 11, but sadly parred out. He couldn’t top Scheffler that day, but it didn’t matter.

Northern Trust
Dustin Johnson didn’t let anyone come close at the Northern Trust Open this past week (via Golf Digest)

Over the last three days of the tournament, Dustin Johnson was -19 on the front nine. Basically, if he just went even par for the rest of the event, he still would’ve tied for the lead. If he only played the front nine the whole week, he would’ve been, to par, one stroke behind English. It was a performance for the ages, one that only a few greats could’ve pulled off.

Tiger Watch

The greatest of all time didn’t look like it at the Northern Trust Open, but he was good enough. A solid three under day one was followed by rounds of even par and two over, but he pulled it together Sunday. A nice five under 66 gives fans hope that he’ll be able to find his way into the top 30 in the FedEx Cup rankings this week. He dropped eight spots to 57th, so he’ll need something big at Olympia Fields.

BMW Championship

While the FedEx Cup Playoff’s penultimate event is often in the greater Chicago area, this is its first time at Olympia Fields CC. The course has been the home of the PGA Championship and U.S. Open twice, along with the U.S. Amateur in 2015. That tournament was won by Bryson DeChambeau, who is seventh in the FedEx Cup rankings. Given his strong play recently, expect him to be near the top of the leaderboard this weekend.

Northern Trust
A skinnier Bryson DeChambeau dominated Olympia Fields in 2015, will he be able to do it again this week? (via the USGA)

There’s been a bit of recent news that may shake up the way the playoff plays out, though. Webb Simpson, who is third in the FedEx Cup, has withdrawn from the BMW Championship. While he’s already qualified for the Tour Championship, this will affect his starting score, which is based on FedEx Cup standings position. The odd part about it is he’s saying it’s simply because he needs rest. This has to be disheartening for Tour officials, as it shows how little importance so many place on the FedEx Cup.

Quick Hits

After missing the cut at the Northern Trust Open, Phil Mickelson is playing in his first Champions Tour event this week. Here is a video of him taking the most on-brand shot of his life, a driver off the deck from behind a tree.

In an Instagram post, Bryson DeChambeau claimed Olympia Fields’ course dog Trigger helped him win in 2015. Some internet sleuths discovered that the dog wasn’t even at the course until 2017. When will the lies stop, Bryson?

In some unsurprising news, October’s CJ Cup has been moved from Nine Bridges Golf Club in South Korea. It will instead be played at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas.


Make sure to check out our PGA page for more updates!

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