• Sorenstam announces retirement
• Rude: Sorenstam puts life over craft
• Players, friends react to announcement
• Sorenstam send message with No. 72
Suzann Pettersen was on her way to the gym when she picked up the phone.
Did you hear the news? Annika is retiring at the end of this season.
“What? I’m shocked,” Pettersen said. “That means I’m not going to pair with her in the Solheim again.”
Like the rest of us, Pettersen knew it was coming. Annika Sorenstam hastalked about the “back nine” of her career for quite some time now. Butthe announcement to retire came just two days after a seven-strokevictory. The timing caught everyone off guard.
She’s back. But not for long.
“I just texted her after she won on Sunday and said ‘I’m so glad thatyou’re playing really solid golf again,’ ” said Pettersen, of hervictory at the Michelob Ultra Open. “It’s been a long time since she’splayed that well.”
Unlike most of the LPGA, Pettersen isn’t in the field at thisweek’s Sybase Classic, where Sorenstam at a 2 p.m. press conferencemade her announcement to “step away from the game” at the end of 2008.Pettersen played the first two rounds at Kingsmill last week withSorenstam and Lorena Ochoa. She witnessed first-hand the riseSorenstam’s game has taken in the last several weeks. Her iron shotsare once again superb, her short game practically flawless.
“I have come back from an injury, and I feel strong, I feel healthy,”Sorenstam said. “The season has started really well, and I’m leavingthe game on my terms.”
Not many athletes walk away with so much game left in them. From anumbers standpoint, it will be tough for Sorenstam to overtake LorenaOchoa this season in the world rankings. But with three victories sofar this year to Ochoa’s five, Sorenstam has a legitimate chance atearning Player of the Year honors, a feat she’s already accomplishedeight times.
Even if that happens, even if Sorenstam tops the money list this seasonand walks away from the ADT Championship with a $1 million check, shewon’t change her mind. Awards and statistics are no longer enough tomotivate her. Sorenstam will push as hard as ever to go out on top thisseason, but nothing that happens over the next seven months willconvince her to come back in 2009.
Sorenstam is getting married in January. The 37-year-old wants to starta family, wants to focus on building the Annika brand. Sorenstam knowsthe focus and commitment it takes to dominate women’s golf. And she’sready to move on.
Pia Nilsson got the call two weeks ago. As a longtime mentor ofSorenstam’s, Nilsson has been listening to Sorenstam talk aboutretirement for a while now. During this particular conversation,however, the decision was very clear in Sorenstam’s mind. It was time.
Two wins later, Sorenstam didn’t budge. Don’t expect her to waiver anytime next year either when major season rolls around.
“Other players are OK with playing a limited schedule, and they’re OKwith not having practiced as much and still playing while not at thetop of their games,” Nilsson said. “But the way Annika works she wantsto be on top. It’s a very Annika decision, very good for her.”
Most of the talk so far this season has centered around Ochoa. Will shewin five consecutive events? Will she win the Grand Slam?
Tuesday morning, Ochoa rang the opening bell at the New York StockExchange. But nobody heard. The golf world was too busy trying toadjust its calendar to accommodate a Sorenstam swan song.
Now every week will focus on saying farewell to one of the greatest the game has ever seen.
“I wanted to leave on my terms when it felt right,” Sorenstam said. “Ididn’t want an injury to take me away from this game. Now I feel atpeace.”
While American players were looking up to Juli Inkster, Meg Mallon andBeth Daniel, Pettersen paid close attention to Sorenstam, herScandinavian neighbor. They would become a potent pair on EuropeanSolheim Cup teams. Pettersen matured in the game working alongsideSorenstam in those heated battles, and she developed a deep respect fora woman who broke down so many barriers in the game.
During the 2007 Solheim Cup, Sorenstam hinted at team meetings thatHalmstad might be her last Cup. Pettersen knew this time was coming.But, like most of us, there still was that element of surprise. Andeven sadness.
“She’s done everything for women’s golf and she’s achieved more thananyone in her period of time,” Pettersen said. “For her, she can stopand be very proud of what she’s done. She has nothing more to prove toherself or to anyone else.”