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Brilliant Popovic does it for his father

Daniel PopovicCOOLUM, Australia, Dec 16 - An inspired Daniel Popovic recovered from a mid-round hiccup to fire a three-under-par 69 on Sunday for a four-stroke victory in the Australian PGA Championship, presented by Coca-Cola.

Hard-charging Rod Pampling (69) opened with six birdies in-a-row and grabbed the lead with the end in sight, but dropped four shots on the last three holes to share second place with Anthony Brown (71).

Popovic had rounds of 64, 70, 69 and 69 to finish at 16 under par in the A$1.25 million tournament -- the finale on both OneAsia and the PGA Tour of Australasia and held at the Palmer Coolum Resort on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

The $225,000 winner's cheque leap-frogged him into second place on the 2012 OneAsia Order of Merit, which was won by Korean Kim Bi-o.


Popovic, 26, led outright or had a share of the lead after every round in what was only his third tournament on OneAsia.

"Next year is going to be completely different to what I had planned two weeks ago," said Popovic, ranked 1,251st in the world after finishing tied for 62nd at the Emirates Australian Open last week.

He won the PGA Tour of Australasia Q-School last year, but hardly played after his father was diagnosed with cancer. Inspired by the way his parents tackled the illness, he re-dedicated himself to the sport in a bid to capture a first professional victory.

"For him this is going to be everything, I cant wait to give him a big bear-hug," said Popovic.

"Two weeks ago I entered Q-School for next year for Australia and was thinking I would just play one tour because of my fathers’ illness, but now next year is just going to be bigger and better and hopefully he keeps pushing on as well."

Pampling -- a two-time winner on the U.S. PGA Tour -- was left feeling nothing but disappointment after a disastrous finish.

 


"Obviously it’s been a long time since I have been in this situation," he said.

"You certainly expected Danny to maybe fall back, but I certainly expected more guys to be up there as well, so I was quite surprised that no one was catching us with three or four to go."

Popovic had watched the scoreboard with interest as Pampling, two groups ahead, set the course alight with his opening streak, but he kept his nose in front with three birdies of his own.

"That was very impressive from Rod Pampling, very impressive, but I impressed myself a bit there actually keeping up with him in a way," he said.

At the par-three eighth, however, he tugged his tee shot into the trees and then fluffed his chip after taking a drop from an unplayable lie.

"I was thinking, 'what? Why is everything going wrong'?" he said.

"But I stood up onto the next tee and I said, ‘alright, you are not out of this tournament, if you can stay calm, stay focussed – you can do this'. I just kept backing myself; I never doubted myself."

Ahead for the first time, Pampling had been a model of consistency until his tee shot on the 16th seemed destined for deep woods but bounced of a tree into the rough. Still, he could only make bogey and it was downhill from there.

Joint second overnight, Anthony Brown had an up-and-down round with five birdies and four bogeys for his best result of the year, while Peter Senior -- playing alongside and fresh from his win at the Emirates Australian Open last week -- stumbled to a 77 and joint 27th place despite an eagle on the 12th.

Irishman Darren Clarke (68) had his best round of the tournament to finish at nine under, while South African Rory Sabbatini (74) was never really in it and level par for the tournament.

 

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