RICH SCHULTZ / AP Enlarge
CLIFTON, N.J. - Annika Sorenstam ignored her notes and spoke from the heart. One of golf's greatest players was leaving the game, and she handled her retirement announcement the way she would a 10-foot birdie putt with a tournament on the line. With command and composure.
Calling her decision one she'd "been thinking about for a while," Sorenstam said yesterday she will retire after the season. The 37-year-old Swede ends an LPGA Tour career in which she has won 72 tournaments to date, and delivered a defining moment when she teed it up against the men on the PGA Tour in the 2003 Colonial.
"I have made a decision to step away from competitive golf after this season," she said at the Sybase Classic. "Obviously this was a very difficult decision for me to make because I love this game so much. But it's the right one."
Her final event will be the Dubai Ladies Masters after the LPGA Tour season ends.
Tiger Woods called Sorenstam "the greatest female golfer of all time" and said it was sad to see her walk away from the game.
"It has been a pleasure watching Annika play for all of these years, but even more of an honor to call her a friend," he said.
Sorenstam has hinted at retirement the past several seasons, saying she wanted to devote more time to her growing business and to start a family. She is engaged to Mike McGee, son of former PGA Tour player Jerry McGee.
Judd Silverman, tournament director of the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic, an annual LPGA Tour event, said he has "no inkling, one way or the other, at this point" whether Sorenstam intends to play in this June's Farr at Highland Meadows Golf Club.
Silverman said he was only mildly surprised by Sorenstam's announcement.
"I know her fianc, Mike, very well, and I think Annika really wants to start a family. If that's what she wants, to be a mom, I think it's great. There's not much she has left to accomplish in golf."
One of her 72 victories came at the Farr Classic in 2000, when Sorenstam beat Rachel Hetherington (Teske) in a playoff.
Sorenstam's 72 victories put her third on the tour's career list behind Kathy Whitworth (88) and Mickey Wright (82). She is tied for fourth in career majors, five behind record-setter Patty Berg.40.86563 -74.16026