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Thursday, February 11, 2021

Say Hello to the Popov Rules!

These were announced a couple of days ago but you may not be clear on just how much these rule changes will affect LPGA winners who aren't tour members.

Sophia Popov with WOmen's British Open trophy

Here's a link to Beth Ann Nichols's article for Golfweek about these rules, but I'll summarize the four changes below:

  • If a non-member wins an LPGA major, she gets a five-year exemption on the tour. (Popov got two years.)
  • The winning non-member of any event -- not just majors -- will also get full credit for the points and money that goes with the win after they accept LPGA membership. (Popov started at zero on both counts. She got no CME Race to the Globe points, which cost her an appearance in both the ANA and the Tour Championship, and her money was considered unofficial as well.)
  • The winning non-member immediately qualifies for the next week's event. (Popov didn't get that perk.)
  • And finally, there's one other change. A member playing on a sponsor exemption will now get official money and points for the win. The fact this rule existed at all seems really strange to me, but it's changed now.

In fact, doesn't it seem strange that any of these changes were needed? As Popov herself said, the new rules really just seem like common sense.

There is one irony here. Sophia Popov wasn't the only player bitten by the previous rules in 2020. US Women's Open winner A Lim Kim was also a non-member winner who had to deal with the same inequities that the LPGA finally corrected with these rule changes.

But Popov was a high-profile non-member with a particularly touching story, given her health struggles and the fact that she had been an LPGA member before and was playing the Symetra Tour to regain her card. It was her story which really put this problem in the spotlight.

So the LPGA will just have to get used to these new rules being known as "the Popov Rules." At least she'll be immortalized for good changes to the game.

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