CLIFTON, N.J. -- Annika Sorenstam dropped a bombshell on the golf world yesterday. She's retiring -- but not before she makes a rare visit to the Canadian Women's Open.
Canadian golf fans have no doubt felt slighted by the Hall of Famer, but Sorenstam will make Ottawa one of the last stops of her career in August, she told Sun Media yesterday, moments after the stunning announcement of her retirement at the end of this season.
The 37-year-old, who won the Canadian title in 2001, said she plans to be at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club for the CN Canadian Women's Open Aug. 14-17, her first trip to Canada's national women's championship since 2003 when she was forced to withdraw after six holes due to illness at Point Grey Golf Club in Vancouver.
'I'LL BE THERE'
"I haven't been (to Canada) in a while," she said. "(The Canadian Women's Open) has always collided with a tournament in Sweden, but this year it's not. I'll be there."
The LPGA has a rule a player must compete in every event at least every four years, but Sorenstam apparently exercised a little-known loophole last year -- which allows a player a one-time exemption from the four-year rule -- to skip last year's Open in Edmonton.
The CN Canadian Women's Open will be one of the final tournaments for Sorenstam, whose achievements will allow her stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the giants of the game, man or woman.
But after 72 victories -- the third most in LPGA history behind Kathy Whitworth's 88 and Mickey Wright's 82 --after 10 majors, after a record $22 million in career earnings, after becoming the only woman to shoot 59 in an LPGA event and the first woman to play in a PGA Tour event in 58 years, Sorenstam said yesterday her heart tells her the time is right to wind down her competitive career.
"I am very happy in my life. I'm very content with what I've achieved and it just feels right," said Sorenstam, who is getting married in January and wants to start a family, as well as grow other interests in the game, like her golf academy and course design. "I'm at peace with what I'm doing. I still have energy and excitement to finish the year on a strong note and that's the way I look at it."
After struggling with neck and back injuries and going winless last year for the first time since her rookie season in 1994, Sorenstam has clawed her way back to the summit this season. Sunday, she won the Michelob Ultra Open by seven shots with a record 19-under total, her third win of the season, over a field that included world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa.
Rather than giving her the drive to continue, proving to herself she could get back to playing like she has through most of her remarkable career has given her the peace of mind to call it quits.
She said comments made by Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre announcing his retirement earlier this year hit a chord with her.
'I FEEL AT PEACE'
"He said he loves the competition, he is just tired of the daily grind and I feel the same way," she said. "I wanted to leave on my terms and when it felt right. I didn't want an injury to take me away from this game. Now I feel at peace."
Hamilton's Alena Sharp grew up idolizing Sorenstam and was taken aback at the news of her retirement.
"It's kind of shocking," said Sharp at the practice green at the Upper Montclair Country Club. "Ever since I started being serious about golf at 15 years old, I wanted to be like her. She's done all she needs to do in golf and she's getting into so many other cool things. That's also something I'd like to emulate.
"She's been such a great ambassador for us. I don't know if you can compare one generation to another, but she's the best of our generation."
Sorenstam was asked if she really thought she could go "cold turkey" after this year.
If you ever wondered what made Sorenstam great, she touched on it with her answer.
"I believe I can. I normally do what I want to do," she said.
That's the way the great ones think, it seems.
She wanted to be the best.
She wants to go out on her own terms and it appears she will.