Wednesday, May 14, 2008


SIMPLY the best female golfer ever to pick up a club. That’s Annika Sorenstam, who has decided to “step away” from competitive play at the end of this season.

Women’s golf does not enjoy the same media exposure worldwide as the men’s game, but almost everyone has heard of Sorenstam. The Swede has won 90 professional tournaments, including 72 events on the LPGA Tour, 10 of them majors. She’s been named Player of the Year no fewer than eight times and has collected the Vare Trophy (given to the player with the lowest scoring average for the season) on six occasions.

But more than that, she has been a trailblazer for her sport. The only woman to shoot 59 in tournament play, she became the first female in 58 years to compete on the men’s U.S. Tour in the 2003 Colonial tournament.

Kathy Whitworth (88) and Mickey Wright (82) may have won more times on the LPGA Tour than Annika, but not against such strong competition.

For the last decade or so, Annika has been the Tiger Woods of women’s golf. Between 2001 and 2005, she actually won more majors than Tiger – seven against five. They even sent text messages to each other as a reminder of the score between them!


Fittingly, it was Woods who led the tributes, describing Sorenstam as “the greatest female golfer of all time.”

At 37 years of age, Annika has decided to devote some time to her personal life. She is getting married next April and plans to start a family.

“I have given it my all, and it’s been fun,” she said. “I came back from injury last year and I feel healthy. I have started strong this season and I will be leaving the game on my own terms.”

Her final event will be the Dubai Ladies Masters. But she’s hoping to add to her tally of titles before then.

Usurped as the No. 1 player by Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa, Annika has battled back from injury with typical grit and determination to win three events this season, including last week’s SBS Open.

Currently No. 2 in the money list on $1,244,281, some $300,000 behind Ochoa, Annika has never settled for second best. That’s not going to change now.

“I’m a huge competitor. People that know me know I don’t settle for second. I know what to do, and I look forward to it.”

Whether Ochoa’s emergence is a factor in Annika’s decision to “retire” is a matter for debate. She has certainly never shied away from a challenge.

As well as helping establish the Solheim Cup as a meaningful competition, she has opened her own golf academy and is involved in several other ventures, including course design.

The good news for golf fans is that they can enjoy seeing Annika competing for another seven months. And who would bet against her writing a few more headlines before heading over the horizon?

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