Annika Sorenstam, the Tigress Woods of women's golf, will play her last major championship this week when she competes in the Ricoh British Open at Sunningdale. She will leave the land of milk and honey at the end of the season, and one of her priorities is to start a family.
"When you've been a part of something for so long of course you care," the Swede said, "but I don't want to make this a farewell tour. I'm still focusing on my game." She will only stop winning titles when she retires as a player in November. "I have made a choice and I'm sure next year I will reflect on all these tournaments and I'm going to miss a lot of it," she said. "But I have many other fun things in life and other goals."
Sorenstam will launch the Annika Academy for junior players and also design golf courses. "I've had a fantastic career," she said, "and I'd like to leave at the top where the memories are still brilliant and while I still have a lot of energy to do something else. Some of the things I'll be connected with have to do with kids and golf. It would be difficult and a lot more sad if I couldn't be involved with the game."
When Bjorn Borg dominated Wimbledon they called him the Iceman. To every major tournamentin Europe and America, Sorenstam brought asimilar Scandinavian style: cool, detached and with an implacable will to win.
"When I win there is joy and happiness and when I don't I'm unhappy and sad," she said, "but I've never been an emotional player." It is partly what makes her such a formidable opponent, but she admits the "daily grind" played a part in her decision to bow out.
"We don't have weeks off," she said, "because even if we're not playing we need to be on the practice range or in the gym. If it was so easy just to go to tournaments and play good golf, I would probably never stop, but that isn't how it works."
A three-time winner this season, Sorenstam says she still has a chance to finish top of the money list and be named player of the year. Barring her way, however, is the extraordinarily talented and petite Mexican Lorena Ochoa, who has not only taken over theworld No 1 spot but will also be the defending championin the British Open after winning the championship, in some style, at St Andrews last year.
"I was surprised to hear of Annika's retirement and I can only say to her, 'Thank you for the good example you set'," said Ochoa, who begins every answer to a question with "Hello". "I learned so much from her. She has always been my motivation to get to the top and improve my game. We are losing a very big name, not only in the LPGA but in golf. It is time to move on. She is leaving to have a family and I respect that very much." So it's goodbye from Sorenstam and hello Ochoa.