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By Ben Parsons at Carnoustie
Sophia Popov is relishing her AIG Women’s Open defence at Carnoustie and is determined to enjoy her status as defending champion.
Popov’s life transformed beyond recognition 12 months ago when she defied all odds to become the first German female major winner.
Then world no.304, journeywoman Popov rose through the Royal Troon field to claim her first tour victory, in arguably the biggest event of all.
It was a sporting story for the ages, as she topped a world class field just three years after overcoming a battle career threatening Lyme disease.
And Popov, 28, wouldn’t have had her spot at Troon without international players being unable to travel during covid-stricken times.
But she very much belongs this year, with a special designated car park space on the Angus coast links and large images a constant reminder of last year's heroics.
“It's a little bit emotional coming out here and it's obviously a really cool venue,” she said.
“You only realise it once you get on-site and you do see your face everywhere and you realise, oh, my God, it's been a year now and this is the event that changed so much for me.
“And I think up until last week, it was just a regular season and just keep playing, keep playing.
“Then once I kind of set foot out here, it was like, okay, I'm coming here to truly enjoy this week, you know, regardless of what happens.
"This is my sixth or seventh week on the road now so obviously it's kind of the highlight of the summer for myself."
Now an established star on tour, Popov has also secured her place on Catriona Matthew’s Solheim Cup team in Ohio at the end of the month.
“It's very exciting,” she added.
“I think a lot of times, I think I might even mentally get ahead of myself a little bit, just really looking forward to that week and the excitement of it always reminds me of all the great things that happened last year and this year.
“The fact that the British Open, of course last year I played well and I won the tournament but I had to back it up with some other finishes to make that Solheim Cup team.
“I did that pretty well throughout the end of last season and beginning of this season.
“Now I fully grasp the idea that I really belong on that team, and now I think I can really enjoy it and look forward to it.”