Daniel Popovic has completed a perfect Cinderella story by winning the 2012 Australian PGA Championship by four shots.
Daniel Popovic fired an opening round 8-under par 64 on Thursday, and every golf fan in the country smiled and thought it was wonderful. But with a mixture of condescension and acumen, none of us really thought an unheralded 26-year-old, playing in only his third professional tournament could back it up on Friday, let alone win the Australian PGA Championship.
But win it he did.
Popovic followed up his opening 8-under par 64 with a more subdued 2-under par 70 with his only blemish, a double-bogey, coming at the difficult par-5 15th. Popovic openly admitted he couldn’t get his head around the hole but he still held a share of the lead going into the weekend.
To lead a professional golf tournament with very little experience under the belt is a difficult task, and by this stage, a top-10 finish is what most experts deemed to be a good result for Popovic.
Popovic almost quite golf earlier this year to tend to his father who is battling leukaemia. It was with him in mind that Popovic set about creating his own Cinderella story.
His third round included three bogey’s but punctuated them with six birdies, three of them coming in the final five holes on Saturday, just as we thought this young upstart would fade into the dinosaur laden background at Palmer Coolum Resort.
One of Australia’s most experienced golfer’s began to fire in the group ahead of Popovic. Rod Pampling rattled off six birdies in his opening six holes to storm to the lead. Combined with a double-bogey on the eighth hole, it appeared Popovic’s time was up.
Popovic looks to have something few Australian golfers of the past 20 years have had though, mental toughness. A birdie on the 12th righted the ship and when Pampling stumbled to bogey’s on 16 and 17, Popovic grabbed the lead back with a birdie on the 17th green thanks largely to a gutsy approach shot.
Pampling found the water on the 18th hole looking for birdie, which meant Popovic could take a stroll down the final fairway knowing anything less then a quadruple-bogey would see the Kirkwood Trophy in his hands.<
Not since Aaron Baddeley’s victory at the 1999 Australian Open have we seen someone so inexperienced win one of Australia’s big golf tournaments.
It could be argued that experience is overrated in golf. All those memories of missed putts and shanks under pressure are hard to forget. For Popovic’s sake, let’s hope he’ll never forget this victory and uses it for future success.