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May 24, 2022

Sophia Popov

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Shadow Creek

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: All right, here with Sophia Popov before play starts at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play presented by MGM Rewards.

Sophia, back after a great round the last year. Tell me, what are your fond memories from last year? You came in second.

SOPHIA POPOV: Yeah, I think last year was really fun. I mean, I've always been a big fan of match play, and then I don't know, things just really went my way last year. I had some big upsets, too. It was just fun.

Last year I took it round by round; just tried to go out there and have a good time. Yeah, it was exhausting by the end of the week. It's a lot of golf. But I really enjoyed myself and it was definitely a great, memorable week for me.

Q. You said you really enjoy match play. What is it about the format of match play that you so love and how do you prepare for it different than any other tournament?

SOPHIA POPOV: I think match play for me has always been something in Europe we grow up with. We have the European Team Championships and I think the British Am. We have a lot of match play events that we play in growing up.

It's fun because I like that one-on-one. I like having my opponent right in front of me and then just trying to better the girl that I'm playing against.

I think on a weekly basis we always play against 143 other girls, and it's kind of hard to -- you kind of lose yourself a little bit in the competition because it's -- yeah, you're trying to win the golf tournament.

But a the Top 10 is pretty good, a Top 20 is pretty good; whereas this week it's really just about beating the girl in front of you. I think competitively I just enjoy that a lot.

Q. The girl in front of you tomorrow is Jenny Shin. What are you looking forward to about that match?

SOPHIA POPOV: Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. Jenny has been playing really well. It's funny. I think she's been playing in front or behind me a lot in the last few tournaments, so I've watched her play a little bit.

It's going to be interesting. I think she's very solid, so definitely going to have to bring my A game tomorrow. But that's the case for anyone who is here this week. I don't really think it changes anything or my approach to my round tomorrow, because I think regardless of who I'm playing against, I'm going to have to play my best golf.

Q. Yeah. And coming off last week you had some really great rounds in there. How are you looking to carry that momentum? I know it hasn't been in this season you wanted, but you have improved.

SOPHIA POPOV: Yeah, I think last week was really nice for me from a momentum perspective. I think I finally played some better golf. I had moments here and there where I was making a lot of birdies.

I think in the final round I think I made seven birdies, so I know that it's in there. I've been making a couple higher numbers, too, which is something that I'm working on just to eliminate the doubles and the triple that I made last week Sunday.

But obviously in this format it's not the end of the world. You maybe lose a hole, but as long as you can make six or seven birdies it's definitely going to look good for you.

I think that's -- definitely from a momentum perspective that was very helpful. I feel like my game is shaping up nicely right now.

Q. Last year none of you guys had really seen this course before so kind of playing off feel at the beginning of the tournament. How does the approach change this year?

SOPHIA POPOV: I think that in the meantime I've been here a few times. It's a golf course that I think it's helpful to know it very well.

But on the other hand, sometimes it takes a little bit away from the naivete that you have going around. I think sometimes last year it was easy to just pick my targets and go for it, and then I think was very easy on myself because I knew it's not an easy golf course.

I think you can make misses are just very easy to come by around here. I think now with experience on the golf course it's just going to be interesting. I think my expectations might be a little bit higher just knowing the course well.

But I think it's all about hitting the right spots on the greens, being okay with making a lot of pars out here. I think pars win a lot of holes.

But, yeah, it's just a golf course that I've grown pretty familiar with now and I really enjoy it, to be honest.

Q. When I talked to Ally last week I asked her a top memory from playing here and she said exhaustion. Is that the case you remember as well?

SOPHIA POPOV: I just remember having a lot of blisters on my feet, really struggling come finals against Ally. I think both of us were both in the locker room and I looked at her and I said, man, this is an exhausting week and she said, it is. I'm just trying to make it through the finals right now. Yeah, same here.

We were very honest about how we felt going into that final round. I think just especially with the temperatures it's going to be pretty hot; maybe not as hot as last year, which would be nice. But it was definitely very exhausting.

Q. Do you think that's an issue having an event like this before the U.S. Open?

SOPHIA POPOV: I think it definitely -- I think it definitely makes you second guess whether you want to play it just to be prepared for next week. Personally, I think this is an incredible event. We're taken care of so well. We have incredible gifts and the golf course -- and I think it's actually a golf course that really prepares you for U.S. Open as far as just how tough it is. So I think it can kind of go both ways. I think it's up to the player to decide.

You know obviously you want to make it into the finals, but that means you have to beat another 63 or 62 girls basically to make it all the way to the finals. Percentage-wise that's what we want.

If it happens that way, you know, is the other question. So I just think in general it's a great golf course and event in preparation for the U.S. Open.

I think, yeah, just depends on how well you play.

Q. And when I wanted to talk to you a little bit about your career. Not the typical arc to just burst on the scene and win a major like you did. Did that change your expectations personally or the expectations of you from others? Now that your season isn't what you expected this year, is that playing into it at all?

SOPHIA POPOV: Yeah, I think for me, it's definitely a different way to kind of come out and make a name for yourself. But I think as I said last year, to me winning the British was just kind of a culmination of work over the last six years that I put in and actually playing very good golf. Just not having the finishes that I need in order to be at the very top.

I think that British to me was just an event where I finally could showcase everything that I have in my golf game. Since then it's been enjoyable for me just to play out here. I've had good weeks in the mine time.

This year hasn't been the way I wanted it to be, but I think that's just natural, the up and downs of a career. You want to play well every week, but I think people forget just how strong the fields are out here every week. You don't have to play good golf, you have to play great golf in order to win a tournament, in order to come in Top 10. You have to play good golf in order to just make the cut.

So just playing okay doesn't cut it out here. I think that's something that I'm kind of coming to grips with right now this year. So I'm trying to play with a little bit more of the ease that I played with last year. Just go about it a little bit more relaxed.

It's going to be tough sometimes, but being okay with that and just grinding it out. That's part of career and that's what I signed up for.

Q. Stepping on the grounds here after last year's success, does that give a boost of confidence?

SOPHIA POPOV: Yeah, definitely. I think also just because I really love this tournament, I love this place. You know, MGM really takes great care of us this week and every week in my case. It's awesome. So I just enjoy being here.

It's slowly becoming a little bit of a second home, so, yeah, definitely good vibes for me. Looking forward to starting tomorrow.

Q. So just kind of a quick one on the two-week stretch. Should you go the distance again, what would your schedule be like in getting to North Carolina and when would you arrive, et cetera?

SOPHIA POPOV: I think that obviously if it I go all the way to Sunday I think I'll probably be in for a nice little red eye on Sunday night. That should be super fun.

But regardless, I think planning on traveling there on Sunday and then hopefully being ready come Tuesday I would say. Obviously for a major week you always want to be ready on a Monday and be able to use all your practice days.

But I learned from last year that sometimes it just helps to take it easy the first few days. A golf course is a golf course whether it's a major venue or not. I'm the kind of person I show up and like to play nine holes, see each side, the front nine, the back nine, and then I'm usually ready to go.

I'm not a big fan of a really extended preparation. To me, I just want to feel good, be ready energy-wise, f so whatever it takes to do that, that's going to be the plan.

Q. What did you do last year on Monday?

SOPHIA POPOV: On Monday, against the recommendation of everyone, I went out on Monday and I just practiced a little bit. It was really cold and it was really windy and I was really miserable and I had no idea why I was there.

But I went out anyway, because I think deep down I had this feeling that it was a bigger week and I had to be there and it was something about the preparation that -- where it's necessary to be there early but.

I think I really learned from that, because I think come Thursday, Friday, I definitely wasn't as energized as I would've liked to have been. Even though I was actually playing decent golf, I was making small mistakes here and there that cost me making the cut in the end.

I think it's definitely something that I will change this year depending on how I play this week. Just taking it easy and making sure that my legs are ready and my body is just ready to go come Thursday.

Q. When did you become an MGM ambassador?

SOPHIA POPOV: A year ago. Surprise. (Smiling.)

Q. I was just going to ask about that. Tell me, I know you became an MGM ambassador after doing so well here last year. Tell me, how has this partnership been for you over the year?

SOPHIA POPOV: It's been awesome. I think at the beginning you're kind of -- I heard from a lot of the other players it's super cool and they really take great care of us. Obviously I would say MGM, this is like the home for MGM in Las Vegas.

I've come here a few times now and checked out some of the different hotels and spas and all that cool stuff, restaurants; I'm a big foodie. I think the perks have been awesome and they're an awesome partner for women's golf and the LPGA.

I think with our team that's growing on the men's and women's side, it's very cool to see. I definitely wear it proud.

Q. Any recommendations for us on restaurants?

SOPHIA POPOV: Restaurants? Love Carbone and ARIA. It's probably my favorite. Best Friends is another really good one. I love Korean food, so that one is fun vibe and really good food.

Q. Last year I know you had some family members out here. Can we expect to see any cute cousins or family out here this year?

SOPHIA POPOV: I wish. I was hoping my nieces would come out this week. They came out to LA this year and they watched me there, which was really nice. I don't think they'll be able to make it out this week but my parents will be here.

They really enjoy this week. I definitely think that they were in for a longer walk last year than they thought they would be, so maybe that turned them off from coming again. Yeah, probably not this year, but my parents will be around.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Sophia.

SOPHIA POPOV: You're welcome.

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