HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. - A farewell tour? Not hardly. The way Annika Sorenstam sees this, perhaps the greatest women's player of any era still has another 5 great months of golf left in her before she calls it a career.
Three weeks ago, the 37-year-old Swede let the world know she was walking away at the end of the season, her 15th on the LPGA Tour, to remarry, start a family and pursue other interests. And it seems as if she has been answering the same questions about her choice ever since. Not that she can really tell us much more now than she did then.
It was simply time.
No, she won't leave the game with all the records. At one point maybe that was the motivation. She has given whatever she had, for as long as she possibly could. What athlete doesn't want to leave on their terms?
"I felt the responsibility to announce my stepping-away decision, because I think I owe that to everybody," she reiterated yesterday at Bulle Rock Golf Club, where the second major of the season, the McDonald's LPGA Championship, gets under way tomorrow. "It's not meant to be something [other] than that.
"I'm focusing on playing. I want to finish well. I have a chance to win the [LPGA] money [title] and Player of the Year. So that's kind of what's my focus and nothing else . . .
"I know this is the right thing. I've been go, go, go, so I haven't really thought about [having any regrets]. This wasn't a decision that I just decided over a cup of coffee. I'm excited about the future, and what that will bring. I have achieved so much on the golf course, and I'm happy. I don't need to do this anymore.
"I'm looking forward to spending my energy on other things . . . I have a lot of passion for what I do, and it's time to change my priorities, and it's going to be fun, different challenges."
She has been the face of the LPGA for the better part of this century, a mantle that has been passed in the last year or so to Lorena Ochoa, who's a decade younger and has won the last two majors. As well as almost everything else she enters. Sorenstam, who struggled in 2007 (no wins) while battling a neck injury, can claim 10 majors among her 72 all-time victories, three of which have come this year. And she has three more majors to go. She won this one three straight times beginning in 2003, including the first year it was held here after moving from Wilmington's DuPont Country Club.
So maybe she has another one or two in her before it's over.
"Or [even] three," she smiled. "Yeah, that would be great.
"I know I can do it. I've done it in the past. I try not to think about, you know, this is my last McDonald's LPGA Championship. If I start thinking like that, I think it would be very tough. I mean, the [extra] pressure would be there."
Above all else, she remains a competitor. She doesn't want what's left of the journey to be ceremonial. Still, she hasn't lost her sense of perspective.
"I do feel a special bond with [Ochoa]," Sorenstam said. "I respect her tremendously, and it's been a lot of fun watching her grow . . . as a person and a player. She is a great asset to the tour. That's another reason why I feel my timing of stepping away is good, is that the tour is in great hands. That makes it easy, too."
A lot of people would love to see Ochoa make a run at a grand slam. Just as many would prefer one more Annika moment. At least. Because soon, all that will be left are the memories.
For her, as well.
"I'm going to smell the roses this week, and I'm going to absorb a little bit more, and go from there," Sorenstam admitted. "I think I'll miss coming down the stretch, being in contention. But there are certain things I will not miss. I mean, the travel and I would say all of the packing and all of that, I've done that. I've been to some wonderful places and I'm looking forward to being home a little bit and have some routines and just catch up on things that you kind of sacrificed . . . Everything [for so long] has been golf. I've been living golf, eating golf, sleeping golf, and now it's time to do something else."
Certainly fair enough. But until then, well, she's going to do what she has always done best. Try to savor it as much as she appears to be doing.
As the interview was winding down, someone wanted to know if television commentary was in her plans?
"Probably not," she responded. "Do you have an opening spot for me?"
Who knows? By Thanksgiving, she will be a free agent. The rest is pretty much her call.
So what's not to understand? *