Annika Sorenstam wants to retire, and she’s certainly earned it. The reluctant superstar who intentionally missed putts as a junior so she wouldn’t have to give a victory speech blossomed into one of sport’s most gracious champions, amassing 72 LPGA Tour wins and 10 majors. Her dominance of the game was so overwhelming that she and Tiger Woods had a good-natured rivalry over number of majors won. She was his only contemporary competition.
Sorenstam may have been at her best in a tournament where she didn’t even make the cut. In the 2003 Colonial, Sorenstam becaome the first woman to play against men in a PGA Tour event since Babe Zaharias in 1945. She handled the circus-like atmosphere with her usual charm and humility and posted a first round 1-under 70. She didn’t play the weekend, but she proved that she deserved the chance.
Now, she wants to focus on family and business. And my selfish reaction as a golf fan is: Why now? After two consecutive wins on the LPGA Tour, Sorenstam is poised to give the LPGA something the men’s tour hasn’t had in years: a real rivalry. While Sorenstam worked through injuries, Lorena Ochoa took her No. 1 ranking and her place as the face of women’s golf. Now, Sorenstam is back to championship form and this season promises to be a duel for wins, majors and that top spot on the money list. The men’s tour hasn’t had a rivalry like this since Nicklaus-Watson and maybe since Nicklaus-Palmer.
So enjoy it while you can, but when she’s gone, it’s gone.