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LPGA releases new regulations that will prevent another Sophia Popov uproar


Winning on the LPGA just got a whole lot better.

On Monday, the LPGA laid out a number of key regulation changes for the 2021 season during a player meeting, and they make a whole lot of sense. One might call some of them the “Popov Rules.”

For starters, the changes eliminate the angst that surrounded Sophia Popov’s victory at the 2020 AIG Women’s British Open. Popov wasn’t the first non-member to win a major, but she was unique in that she was an LPGA veteran who had only recently lost her status and was competing on the Symetra Tour.

Beginning this year, if a non-member wins a major championship, she will earn LPGA membership for five years. (It was previously two years.)

In addition, the non-member will now receive official points and money for any win after accepting tour membership. After Popov won, she accepted membership and started at zero. Her money from Royal Troon was unofficial, and she didn’t earn any points toward the CME Race to the Globe, which kept her out of the ANA Inspiration and the CME Group Tour Championship.

Popov also wasn’t in the event that immediately followed Royal Troon in Arkansas because a non-member couldn’t take the spot that was held for the previous week’s winner. That rule has also changed. If a non-member wins an event and takes up membership, she can now immediately tee it up the next week.

One more winning change: If a member is competing on a sponsor exemption in a no-cut event, she will receive official points and money for the win.

Last year, Popov wasn’t the only non-member to win a major. A Lim Kim won the U.S. Women’s Open in December and accepted membership for 2021. She’s scheduled to begin her LPGA rookie season at the Kia Classic in March.

Unfortunately, none of these changes are retroactive. Both Kim and Popov will have two-year exemptions.

(When reached for comment on Monday, Popov told Golfweek she’d return the call after she got off the ski slopes.)

As previously announced, the Race to the CME Globe Points list will now be used to determine playing status for the 2022 LPGA Priority List, taking the place of the money list.

Other changes for the 2021 season include the return of local qualifying at designated events, the return of mandatory caddies at LPGA events and an in-position timing policy, which will begin at the Kia Classic. The new pace-of-play component now allows officials to time players even when their group is in position in relation to the group in front of them.

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