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Popovic Takes Australian PGA


Daniel Popovic rolled to a remarkable wire-to-wire victory in the Australian PGA Championship. The 26-year-old closed with a 3-under 69 to reach 18-under 272, four strokes ahead of fellow Australians Anthony Brown and Rod Pampling, at Palmer Coolum Resort Saturday on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

Popovic, who won the 2012 Australasian PGA qualifying school and is a rookie on that tour, carded five birdies and a bogey on Sunday. He earned $225,000 of the $1.3 million purse.

After opening with six straight birdies to tie Popovic for the lead, Pampling stumbled down the stretch with two bogeys and a double-bogey on the par-4 closing hole after his approach found water. He shot a 69, while Brown posted a 71.

The win was emotional for Popovic, whose father is suffering from incurable bone cancer, and he nearly quit golf to tend to his stricken father. "He's the reason (I won) because of what he's going through," Popovic told reporters. "I'll come home after a bad round and say to him 'golf is a hard game' and he'd say 'look what I'm going through.' It puts things into perspective."

His father was his motivation this week. "When I stood over some putts and had some doubts, I thought of his words. They got me back on track," he said. "My dad is why I am more confident and back myself and push so hard on the golf course. I can't wait to give him a big bear hug."

Popovic entered the tournament ranked 1,251st in the world and was a decidedly unlikely choice to win one of his country's premier golf tournaments. "Two weeks ago I entered Q-School (qualifying school) for next year for Australia and was thinking I would just play one tour because of my father's illness, but now next year is just going to be bigger and better and hopefully he keeps pushing on as well," he said.

"My goal with golf is to win a major championship. I don't feel it's that far off. I'm going to walk away thinking if I keep doing this, I'm going to get there."

Pampling was a bit disappointed with his finish, but noted later that it was all part of his aggressive approach. "I knew I had to make a birdie on the last to put some pressure on him, I was trying to win it," the 43-year-old said.

Tied for fourth at 11-under 277 were former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy (69) and Brad Kennedy (70). Fellow Aussies Nathan Green and Richard Green, no relation, both shot 69s to tie for sixth at 278.

For all the scores, visit http://www.pga.org.au/scores/1135.