Shoulder injury sidelines major champ Sophia Popov for remainder of 2022 season

·3 min read

Looking back, Sophia Popov wishes she had trained a bit differently over the offseason. Maybe taken off a few tournaments earlier this year.

But there’s always this push.

The feeling that the next event might be the event that will be so successful, she can then afford to take more time off.

“It’s this vicious cycle,” said Popov.

Perhaps because she didn’t take off a short time to reset, Popov is now forced to take a long time. The 29-year-old Popov has taken a medical leave for the rest of 2022. She’ll return next season with the guarantee of six events plus the majors to secure her card going forward.

The first time Popov was irritated by right shoulder pain was at the Cognizant Founders Cup in mid-May. The pain had really started about six weeks before that, but she thought that if she did the right rehab exercises and strengthened it, the pain might go away.

Instead, the opposite happened.

“Every time I took the club away, and again after impact,” she said, “I would feel a sharp pain through my shoulder.”

Popov had an MRI done while at the AIG Women’s British Open in August and was diagnosed with supraspinatus tendinopathy, which is associated with impingement syndrome. She played one more time at the CP Women’s Open before ultimately deciding that she needed time to heal. She immediately felt that a tremendous weight had been lifted.

“I was having no fun out there,” said Popov from her home in Arizona. “I had this indifference toward the game because all I could think of was how much I was hurting and how much I’d love to play pain-free again.”

Popov believes poor posture played a big role in the injury, with her right shoulder falling forward at address and staying that way through the swing.

The 2021 European Solheim Cup player is now in the midst of a grueling rehab process that will take at least a month before she sees significant improvement. One of the hardest things, she said, is filling up her days without golf. She’s reading a lot, hiking and catching up with friends. Her husband, Maximilian Mehles, starts a new banking job in October.

Popov recently watched the Andy Murray documentary “Resurfacing” on Amazon and said the story of his journey through injury resonated deeply.

“Going home and restructuring your life in a way that’s very meaningful is very hard,” she said.

As Popov nears the end of the two-year exemption she received after winning the 2020 AIG Women’s British Open, she’ll need to hit the gas pedal hard early next year to get back in position to keep her card. She’s currently 106th on the CME points list. The top 100 keep their cards.

For now, though, she’s simply trying to put back the plates in the cupboard. Trying to get back to a life without pain.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek