Annika enjoys the moment

TIM BAINES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:14 PM ET

On a wonderful summer day with the sun shining brilliantly, unlike so many of the dreary, rainy days that preceded it in the nation's capital, Annika Sorenstam wanted to savour the moment.

A trickle of sweat rolled down her cheek yesterday as she finished her brilliant first round of 5-under 67.

But Annika in her retirement tour, making her final CN Canadian Women's Open appearance, couldn't take the time to bask in the glory.

And glory it was ... she needed just 10 putts on her first nine holes (she began on No. 10). She had eight birdies, relying on the magic of her Odyssey White Hot XG 2 putter.

Wearing a white Cutter and Buck shirt with turquoise shorts, her ponytail poking out of her Callaway hat, she waded through a sea of fans to sign her scorecard, a smile sneaking onto her face.

Words of encouragement such as "Good luck tomorrow" and "Great round today, Annika", were met with a nod of acknowledgement.

Beneath the steely exterior, forged by so many years of golf superstardom, she wanted to let loose. She wanted to enjoy the enormity of yesterday and the days of golf to follow and the hospitality of the city which has become so enamoured with her larger-than-life presence.

Rather than zone in on each hole, worried whether a putt would break left or right, she ached to soak up the atmosphere, stop and chat with everybody.

But that's not how she became a superstar, the LPGA's greatest of this generation. It's not how she won 72 LPGA titles, banking more than $22 million in 15 glorious years on tour. That's all about focus.

There are signs she's stopping to smell the roses. She recently tossed out the first pitch at a New York Mets game at Shea Stadium. And she read the Top 10 Reasons Annika Sorenstam is Retiring on Letterman.

Among the reasons: "I'm tired of Tiger Woods stealing my putter."

And, the No. 1 reason?

"The only putts I have to worry about is my fiance."

That would be Mike McGee, who she'll marry next year.

At 37, she wants to have children, get outside "the zone" and get back a life that's been so much about playing golf for so long. Soon she'll be on the corporate side, focusing on her company, ANNIKA.

"I'm still in my competitive mode," she said in front of the tape recorders, pens and notepads at yesterday's press conference. "Once I'm inside the ropes, I'm there to win. I'm there to play the best I can. I think that mindset is probably going to be there forever because I've done it for so long.

"It's almost like you push an on button and then you get in your competition mode. It's when I stop, when I start looking around, when I start reflecting on things that I feel differently," she said.

She smiles. Her guard has been let down.

"When I got here Tuesday, I was amazed to see how many people were out here, just the support has been wonderful. And (yesterday), first day, there were several rows lined up on the fairway. It's so much fun to play in front of huge crowds ... that are just so supportive.

"It makes it extra special ... and that's fun."

The press conference ended, but Annika's day didn't. She walked to the practice range, stood and hit shot after shot, the sweet swing unaffected by cars whizzing by on Hunt Club Rd.

It was time to prepare for today. Time to focus on winning another tournament. And that's what makes Annika so special, such a treasure.

She will be missed.


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