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Golf

Sorenstam Gives Fans Treat In Last Open

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: May 23, 2013 at 07:04 AM
EDINA, Minn. -

Of all the things Annika Sorenstam has done in golf, this is not one of them.

During a 15-year career she won 72 career titles, including 10 major championships; became the only woman ever to shoot 59; succeeded at the unfair task of immediately following iconic Nancy Lopez as LPGA flag bearer; played - for the right reason, competition - in the PGA Tour's Colonial; and earned beloved admiration along the way.

Never, however, had Sorenstam shown up to play her final U.S. Women's Open.

Now, here she is halfway to the bittersweet milestone.

"To be honest, I try not to think about it," Sorenstam said.

That would make her the only one at Interlachen Country Club this week.

"You're walking out there and you hear everybody saying, 'Thanks for the memories, thank you for what you've done,' and it's true," young American playing partner Paula Creamer said. "She definitely has raised the bar for women's golf. She put such a big impact on where we're at today."

The buildup to this week's gallery outpouring began when Sorenstam's retirement announcement was made a month ago. At season's end, the 37-year-old Swede said she will be finished, too. Her wedding is scheduled for January and she wants to start a family. There are a host of business opportunities to pursue, building the Annika brand name. Yes, she will miss the competition, but acknowledges "you can't have it all."

So Friday she gave a little back, saving a legion of following fans from anxiety attacks of Big Bertha proportions by shooting a 3-under 70. Beginning the day 2 over, eight shots back and uncertain of weekend plans, Sorenstam stayed in the game, getting back to the happy side of par and within five shots of second-round leader-in-the-clubhouse Angela Park.

She made five birdies and two bogeys. Shots flew as straight as any time in her heyday (10 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens), all the better to freeze the moment - for the golfer and her fans.

"The better you play, the more memories you have," she said.

Sorenstam already has three U.S. Women's titles. One more for the road would join her with Mickey Wright and Betsy Rawls as the event's biggest winners of all time. Coming off a lost 2007 where she went winless while recovering from a neck injury, she remains ranked No. 2 in the world and has three victories this year.

Lopez, retired and the mother figure of women's golf, even tried to convince Sorenstam to change her mind upon hearing the retirement news. You think the PGA Tour is hurting? At least Tiger Woods is planning on coming back.

"I spoke to Nancy a little bit about what's next," Sorenstam said. "She thinks I need to be out here. So that conversation wasn't very long."

Sorenstam's thinking is that reaching her decision was hard enough as it was, why bring more voices into the argument?

The decision is made. Possibly the most competitive personality women's golf has ever known will soon walk away at a time when she could easily continue setting records. Everybody knows she will leave a void in golf. Does she know the void golf will leave in her competitive self?

"That's a good question," Sorenstam said. "I guess I will find out. I'm hoping to channel it through the different business ventures I have. I hope I will be easy to live with. I hope I can tone down my competitiveness. But I'm afraid it will be something that will always be with me."

Women's golf wishes it could say the same.


Reporter Mick Elliott can be reached at (813) 281-2534 or melliott@tampatrib.com.

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