Desert Queen Popov wins another title; Nishtha Madan 17th and Anika Varma 23rd

Sophia Popov won her third title on the Cactus Tour with a convincing four stroke victory over Riley Rennell. On her professional debut, Nishtha Madan gave a good account of her game and temperament.

Nishtha Madan - Noah Montgomery - Cactus Tour

27 May 2020: German Sophia Popov has found the sweet spot yet again, claiming a third title of the season on the Cactus Tour. She made a patient 70 in the final round to clinch a four stroke victory over Riley Rennell. On her professional debut, Nishtha Madan endured a painstaking final round 79 to finish in the 17th spot. Anika Varma ended the week in T23 after making 75 on Wednesday. Britney Yada, Cheyenne Woods, Haley Moore and Emily Penttilae finished in T3.

Sophia Popov - Troon North - Cactus Tour
Sophia Popov – Troon North – Cactus Tour

Anika started her day with a bogey on the first hole before adding a second on the par-5 fifth hole. She made a birdie at the ninth to make the turn at one-over for the day. Another birdie at the 11th hole took her even for the round and she looked set for a good finish. But an untimely double at the par-3 16th hole and a bogey on the final hole dropped Anika to a 75. She ended the week at 13-over with scores of 76-78-75.

Nishtha had a poor start and that left her climbing uphill for much of the final round. She began with a  triple on the first hole and conceded another bogey at the second, making an untidy start. She showed good temperament though, securing birdies at the two par-5s, the 5th and 7th holes to recover a shade. But then she conceded another bogey at the 8th to slip back to 3-over, reaching the bend.

“Got off to a rough start with a triple,” acknowledged Nishtha. “I only missed two fairways today but had triple on both which kind of gives a sense of the golf course and how it plays. If you miss the fairway or greens it can be very costly since you don’t get a shot out of the desert most of the time.”

Nishtha made a birdie on the 12th too, but a triple on the 15th put paid to her hopes of a higher finish. The 16th, a short par-3 playing 123 downwind proved her nemesis yet again. She conceded her third bogey of the week there as she settled for a 79 and a top-20 finish.

“Happy with my approach to the course and the tournament – the goal this week was just to have fun and be a “sponge” in a sense. Soak the experience in and figure out my strengths and weaknesses to work on them moving forward,” explained Nishtha. “It was a good start to my pro career. Played with strong players like Cheyenne Woods and Emily Penttilae, who have been doing this for a long time so that was a great learning experience.”

Popov looked shaky at the start, conceding a bogey on the second hole. But she made three birdies in five holes to stamp her authority over the final stages of the 20th event on the Cactus Tour. She came home with a birdie at the 11th and a late bogey on the 17th for a final round 70 to clinch a comfortable victory. Rennell matched her opponent stroke for stroke, as she too produced 34-36 like Popov for a 70 to secure second place. Popov ended the week at 8-under with Rennell at 4-under. The four women tied in third were all at 1-under 215.