Date: December 18, 2012

Grant Report – Victorian Popovic stuns PGA field

Inspired by his father’s brave fight against cancer, Victorian Daniel Popovic produced one of the biggest boilovers in Australian professional golf to win the Australian PGA Championship at Coolum.

The unheralded Popovic, 26, playing in just his third tourament on the OneAsia Tour, fired a final round three-under-par 69 on Sunday for a four-stroke victory over a list of seasoned local professionals and internationals.

Queenslander Rod Pampling made a determined bid to seize the lead when he opened with six straight birdies but dropped four shots on the last three holes to share second place with Victorian Anthony Brown.

Popovic recorded scores of 64, 70, 69 and 69 to finish at 16 under par in the A$1.25 million tournament and his $225,000 winner’s cheque leap-frogged him into second place on the 2012 OneAsia Order of Merit, which was won by Korean Kim Bi-o.

He had led outright or had a share of the lead after every round and acknowledged that his shock win would cause a major shift in his 2013 schedule.

"Next year is going to be completely different to what I had planned two weeks ago," said Popovic, ranked 1,251st in the world after finishing tied for 62nd at the Emirates Australian Open last week.

He won the PGA Tour of Australasia Q-School last year, but hardly played after his father was diagnosed with cancer.

But, inspired by the way his parents tackled the illness, he re-dedicated himself to the sport in a bid to capture a first professional victory.

"For him this is going to be everything, I cant wait to give him a big bear-hug," said Popovic.

"Two weeks ago I entered Q-School for next year for Australia and was thinking I would just play one tour because of my fathers’ illness, but now next year is just going to be bigger and better and hopefully he keeps pushing on as well."

 Pampling — a two-time winner on the U.S. PGA Tour — was left feeling nothing but disappointment after a disastrous finish.

 "Obviously it’s been a long time since I have been in this situation," he said.

"You certainly expected Danny to maybe fall back, but I certainly expected more guys to be up there as well, so I was quite surprised that no one was catching us with three or four to go."

Popovic had watched the scoreboard closely as Pampling, two groups ahead, set the course alight with his opening streak, but he kept his nose in front with three birdies of his own.

"That was very impressive from Rod Pampling, very impressive, but I impressed myself a bit there actually keeping up with him in a way," Popovic said.

At the par-three eighth, however, he tugged his tee shot into the trees and then fluffed his chip after taking a drop from an unplayable lie.

"I was thinking: ‘What! Why is everything going wrong’?" he said.

"But I stood up onto the next tee and I said, ‘alright, you are not out of this tournament, if you can stay calm, stay focused – you can do this’. I just kept backing myself; I never doubted myself."

Joint second overnight, Anthony Brown had an up-and-down round with five birdies and four bogeys for his best result of the year, while Peter Senior — playing alongside and fresh from his win at the Australian Open last week — stumbled to a 77 and joint 27th place despite an eagle on the 12th.

By: Robert Grant