Report: Sorenstam to retire

The Associated Press is reporting that Annika Sorenstam will retire at season’s end. Here’s the story:

Sorenstam to retire this year
By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer

Annika Sorenstam will retire after the season, ending an LPGA Tour career in which she has won 72 tournaments to date and delivered a defining moment when she teed it up against the men on the PGA Tour.

She was to announce her decision at a news conference (at 11 a.m. today) at the Sybase Classic in Clifton, N.J., a person familiar with her plans told The Associated Press.

The 37-year-old Sorenstam has hinted at retirement the past several seasons, saying she wanted to devote more time to her growing business and to start a family. She is engaged to Mike McGee, son of former PGA Tour player Jerry McGee.

“This would be very much like Annika to get on top and then quit,” said Judy Rankin, a Hall of Famer and television analyst.

The decision comes two days after Sorenstam won the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill by seven shots for her third victory of the season, and first against a field that included Lorena Ochoa. It was a sign that Sorenstam had fully recovered from injuries and was poised to make a strong bid at recapturing her stature as the best in women’s golf.

“I just hope to continue this momentum,” Sorenstam said after winning. “I’m feeling it. It’s turning around, and so I can’t wait for the next month or so to come with big tournaments, and I’m excited.”

Sorenstam dominated women’s golf like few others, especially during a five-year period when she won 43 times and finished among the top three nearly 70 percent of the time. But for all her achievements — the only woman to shoot 59, 10 majors and one of six women to complete the career Grand Slam — she became most famous for testing herself against the men.

Sorenstam became the first woman in 58 years to complete on the PGA Tour when she played at the Colonial in 2003. She missed the cut, but earned worldwide respect for the way she handled herself amid massive scrutiny.

She won LPGA Tour player of the year a record eight times, including five straight seasons until Ochoa ended the streak in 2006. Sorenstam was ineffective most of 2007, the first time in 12 years she failed to win on the LPGA Tour, as she recovered from back and neck injuries.

She won the first tournament of the year in Hawaii, picked up a playoff victory in South Florida three weeks ago, then continued a slow rise in the world rankings toward Ochoa with a dominant victory in Virginia.

But when asked Sunday if she would defend her title at Kingsmill, Sorenstam hedged.

“I hope so,” she said. “I’m going to continue this year the way I started it and at the end of the year. I always assess it like I have the last few years. At this point, I feel great about what I’m doing.”

Sorenstam still faces a large deficit to reclaim the No. 1 ranking from Ochoa, although LPGA Tour players measure themselves more on winning the money title and the points-based player of the year award. Those are easily within reach for Sorenstam with the season not even halfway over.

Sorenstam’s 72 victories put her third on the LPGA Tour’s career list behind Kathy Whitworth (88) and Mickey Wright (82). She is tied for fourth in career majors, five behind record-setter Patty Berg.

But those kind of marks never appealed to Sorenstam, even when she was winning at least 10 times during a season. She often talked about stopping sooner than people imagined to pursue other interests, whether that meant her affinity for cooking or fitness.

Sorenstam opened a golf academy last year near her home in Orlando, Fla., also launching her brand (“Annika”) and a Web site. Sorenstam plans to marry next spring.

She is not the first LPGA Tour star to retire early. Wright, whom many regard as the best, stopped playing a full schedule when she was 34 and won the last of her 82 tournaments at age 37.

At the end of the ’07 season, Sorenstam felt she had arrived at “the back nine of my career.”

“I’ve done a lot, and I’m satisfied in a lot of things,” she said. “I’ve achieved so much more than I ever thought I could.”

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About Jill Painter

Jill Painter is a sports columnist for the Los Angeles News Group, covering everything from the Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers, USC, UCLA, Kings, golf and all human interest stories in sports.