Popovic stays firm to win Australian PGA
Tour rookie Daniel Popovic held his nerve to stay clear of the chasing pack and record a wire-to-wire Australian PGA Championship victory by four strokes on Sunday.
The 26-year-old Australian, who led or shared top spot after every round of the $1.3 million tournament at the Palmer Coolum Resort, began the final day two shots clear and carded a final-round three-under 69 for a 16-under par 272 total.
The victory was made even more emotional for the Victorian after his father was diagnosed with bone cancer earlier this year.
"He's the reason (I won) because of what he's going through," Popovic told reporters. "I'll come home after a bad round and say to him 'golf is a hard game' and he'd say 'look what I'm going through'.
"It puts things into perspective."
Popovic nearly quit golf to look after his father but decided to play on at his insistence.
"When I stood over some putts and had some doubts, I thought of his words. They got me back on track," he said. "My dad is why I am more confident and back myself and push so hard on the golf course.
"I can't wait to give him a big bear hug."
This video is not available in your region
Popovic, ranked 1 251st in the world, pocketed the winner's purse of $225 000 and his outlook towards golf has changed.
"Two weeks ago I entered Q-School (qualifying school) for next year for Australia and was thinking I would just play one tour because of my father's illness, but now next year is just going to be bigger and better and hopefully he keeps pushing on as well," he added.
"My goal with golf is to win a major championship. I don't feel it's that far off.
"I'm going to walk away thinking if I keep doing this, I'm going to get there."
Fellow Australians Anthony Brown and Rod Pampling, who saw his title chances vanish with a stunning late collapse, finished tied for second on 12-under.
Popovic, who won the 2012 Australasian PGA qualifying school, started brightly with three birdies in his first five holes but a double-bogey on the eighth saw him fall behind a surging Pampling.
The 43-year-old began his final round with six consecutive birdies and took the outright lead by the turn but bogeys on the 16th and 17th and a double-bogey on the last hole allowed Popovic to cruise to victory.
"I knew I had to make a birdie on the last to put some pressure on him, I was trying to win it," Pampling said of his approach shot to the last green which landed in the water.
Former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and Brad Kennedy finished on 11-under for the share of the fourth spot.
FINAL SCORES (Australian unless stated)
272 – Daniel Popovic 64-70-69-69
276 – Rod Pampling 71-67-69-69, Anthony Brown 73-68-64-71
277 – Geoff Ogilvy 67-69-72-69, Brad Kennedy 69-68-70-70
278 – Richard Green 71-68-70-69, Nathan Green 72-71-66-69
279 – Marc Leishman 69-70-73-67, Steven Bowditch 70-67-74-68, Darren Clarke, Northern Ireland 70-69-72-68, John Senden 73-69-69-68, James Nitties 70-72-68-69, Michael Wright 70-73-66-70, Stephen Dartnall 68-72-68-71, Mathew Goggin 71-66-70-72, Matthew Griffin 69-67-70-73
280 – Adam Crawford 70-71-70-69, Jason Kang, United States70-69-71-70, Matthew Millar 73-66-70-71, Brendan Jones 73-67-67-73
281 – Peter O'Malley 73-68-71-69, Greg Chalmers 72-69-68-72
282 – Kim Do-hoon, South Korea 73-71-68-70, Terry Pilkadaris 70-74-69-69, Jason Scrivener 68-75-69-70, Kurt Barnes 74-65-71-72
283 – Leigh McKechnie 70-69-72-72, Zhang Xinjun, China 67-67-74-75, Peter Senior 68-70-68-77
284 – Stephen Leaney 69-70-71-74, Robert Allenby 73-67-68-76
285 – Aaron Townsend 69-74-72-70, Josh Geary, New Zealand 69-72-69-75, Steven Jones 70-74-73-68
286 – Jamie Arnold 71-68-73-74, Scott Strange 66-73-74-73, Michael Hendry, New Zealand 73-72-69-72, Ryan Haller 68-73-74-71, Alex Hawley 72-72-72-70, Park Ju-hyuk, South Korea 77-67-73-69, Nick Gillespie, New Zealand 72-73-72-69, Ashley Hall 71-74-73-68
287 – Peter Fowler 70-70-71-76, Bronson La'Cassie 69-71-71-76, Nick Flanagan 70-73-72-72, Brad Shilton, New Zealand 76-67-72-72, Cao Yi, China 73-71-72-71
288 – Mark Brown, New Zealand 71-71-70-76, Jake Higginbottom 76-69-68-75, Rory Sabbatini, South Africa 76-68-70-74, Steve Conran 69-70-76-73, Cameron Percy 70-70-70-78, Stuart Appleby 70-75-71-72, David Bransdon 73-71-75-69
289 – Jason Norris 74-69-71-75, Alistair Presnell 73-70-74-72
290 – Choi Joon-woo, South Korea 74-69-78-69
291 – Kurt Carlson 76-69-72-74, Paul Sheehan 72-73-73-73
292 – Nick O'Hern 72-70-71-79, Peter Cooke 70-75-77-70
293 – Brendan Smith 72-73-71-77, Craig Parry 71-72-74-76, Heath Reed 72-68-77-76, Park Hyo-won, South Korea 71-73-74-75
294 – Choo Tze-huang, Singapore 67-75-75-77, Gavin Flint 70-75-74-75
295 – Andrew Martin 73-71-73-78, Christopher Campbell 74-71-78-72