DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - It ended with a birdie, a standing ovation and a seventh-place finish for Annika Sorenstam, leaving the Hall of Fame golfer with no regrets after the final stroke of her career.
The Swede shot a 1-under 71 Sunday at the Dubai Ladies Masters, finishing six shots behind winner Anja Monke after an eight-foot birdie at No. 18 drew a standing ovation from the packed gallery.
Sorenstam raised her putter to acknowledge the crowd and then hugged caddie Terry McNamara.
"I felt at peace. I really felt very content,'' she said. "I walked up to hit my third shot on the 18th, and I felt the breeze coming in, and it was just a really comfortable feeling. I saw some players standing behind the 18th green, that gave me a tear. I saw my parents and my family and that give me a tear.''
Sorenstam, who is retiring to focus on family and business interests, led the tournament after the second round, but shot a 75 on Saturday to torpedoe her hopes for a third straight title at the season-ending tournament on the Ladies European Tour.
"I have had many farewells since I announced my decision some five months back, but this one was special,'' she said. "I started my career with LET, and it is fitting to end it with an LET event.
Monke shot a 68 to protect her overnight lead, finishing at 13-under 275. Veronica Zorzi of Italy was second, three strokes behind the German, with British veteran Laura Davies another shot back in third.
"I'm feeling very happy,'' Monke said, adding that it was tough to focus on her game and not Sorenstam. "Of course I heard the big applause when she was hitting her shot into the 18th green. I was on the 16th green at the time. And then we saw her actually finishing it off on 18. We hit our tee shots by that time and so I could at least see a little bit.''
Sorenstam said she was a little nervous Sunday morning and came to the course a bit earlier to stretch and reflect on the day. But once she hit her first shot, she said it was "automatic.''
"I know the time is right, and therefore I feel very happy,'' she said. "If you think about 15 years and all of the things I've achieved, it's sad. But you close one door and you open another one. I'm glad I have a chance to do that.''