Popovic steps onto the world stage at Bridgestone

Since winning the Australian PGA Championship, Daniel Popovic’s sole focus has been preparing for this week’s US$8.75m World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational.

Earning a place in the field thanks to his fairytale win on the PGA Tour of Australasia, Popovic is now ready to take advantage of the biggest opportunity of his short career.

Daniel Popovic Daniel Popovic holds the 2012 Australian PGA trophy he won in December (Credit: Anthony Powter)

“This is my biggest tournament to date ten fold,” he said.

“If I’m not mistaken this is one of the biggest prize purses for the year worldwide, it has the world top 50 plus a number of invites, no cut and a demanding course, it’s no wonder they call it the unofficial fifth major.”

“I don’t have too high an expectation of myself this week, I have prepared as well as I feel possible so I’m not walking into to this week scared that I haven’t done my homework.”

The preparations he refers to began back in April, but not on a golf course. He looked to his favourite AFL team the North Melbourne Football Club and its high performance team to help build his physical fitness.

“This year in Australia, especially through the months of April and May I was working with the North Melbourne Football Club and their high performance staff on getting my core strength up.”

“I have had a few problems this year with a shoulder injury from last year, and a recurring back injury,” said Popovic, who last year admitted fitness wasn’t a component of his golf practice.

“There is such a good atmosphere down at the Club; they were really welcoming and really interested in my performance.”

Travelling throughout Europe, Popovic sort out the guidance of three time European Tour winner Richard Green, whilst in America Geoff Ogilvy once again was a mentor for the 27-year-old.

“It was really good timing for me to touch base with Geoff as he was getting right on top of his game preparing for the British Open. I also spent roughly a month in the UK where I was staying with Richard Green and partially with Marcus Fraser.”

“They helped me a lot with how to go about planning and preparing for tournaments – seeing how those guys go about their business and being such successful golfers themselves was priceless for me.”

“I was eating away at their brains every day, mainly about how and what they do in certain moments not just on the golf course, but in career and life as golfers – a topic which has been much more critical for me this year as I have struggled being away from home so much,” added Popovic whose father is battling cancer at home in Melbourne.

Part of his time with Ogilvy was spent at Firestone, playing the course and learning the nuances that have earned its reputation as a tough layout.

“The course is extremely difficult but I have watched this tournament for many years on TV so coming to Akron and playing at Firestone is a dream come true.”

“The course is so much easier on TV,” joked Popovic.

Despite missed cuts early in 2013 on the PGA Tour of Australasia, Popovic believes his game is now ready for the Firestone challenge but more importantly he is mentally ready for the test.

“Golf is such a funny game – at a high level there is just a fine line between success and failure and we always seem to be searching for answers.”

“I have improved on certain parts of my game in the last couple of months, but in the end it’s what is between the ears.”

“If you have the desire to succeed, if you’re confident and believe that success is around the corner even when things aren’t going right – that’s the key and I have never lost doubt in myself or my ability.”

“But there is no doubt I will be shaking in my shoes standing on that first tee every day. Regardless I have earned my place in this tournament just like every other player here and if I play as good as I did at the PGA in December there is no doubt I will contend and I strongly believe that.”