Annika Sorenstam, arguably the greatest female golfer in history, will play in her last tournament on the Ladies European Tour this week… for the foreseeable future.
The 38-year-old, who dominated women’s golf for a decade, is hoping to end her farewell tour on a high note by winning the Dubai Ladies Masters at Emirates Golf Club for the third year running.
Speaking at a press conference in Dubai, Sorenstam said: “It’s a little bittersweet to make this my last professional tournament. I’m here to enjoy it. I’ve got both sets of parents here and my sister is here and (it’s) a little bit of a celebration week.”
Sorenstam’s sister Charlotta has received an invitation from tournament organisers golf in Dubai to play in the €500,000 event, while Sorenstam’s fiancée Mike McGee is on call with the video camera to capture the memories.
McGee said he had a tear in his eye when he saw the giant sized posters of his wife-to-be on the grandstands at the Majlis’s course’s 18th green. The pair will marry next month in Orlando, Florida and Tiger Woods is on the invite list.
“It’s an exciting time and I’m excited about a new chapter in my life. We would love to start a family and that’s going to be very different than I’m used to,” Sorenstam added.
However despite announcing in May that she would step away from competitive play at the end of 2008, Sorenstam would not rule out a tour come back. “I don’t have any immediate plans on if I should return and if so, when. I’m just going to go with the flow and see how I feel.”
As well as starting a family, Sorenstam will have her business interests to focus on in 2009, such as the ANNIKA Academy, her own perfume and red wine. She flew to Dubai from Malaysia, where she has a 63-hole golf course project.
“I had a really weird preparation for this week. I played in Singapore a few weeks ago and then I went to India on a yoga retreat and didn’t touch a golf club, did a lot of stretching. Then I went to Malaysia for a golf course design visit and now I’m here,” she said. “I’ve never been to India and I’ve never been to such an experience.”
Yoga, meditation and chanting may constitute unusual preparation for the ten-time major champion but this is no ordinary week, even for Sorenstam. It could be the final step in a career that has seen her win 89 victories worldwide, shoot 59 and become the first woman in 58 years to compete against the men on the PGA Tour.
“If I had to pick one thing that defines me, I would say that it’s playing with the men in 2003,” she said, adding that the 1995 US Open was her favourite major championship victory.
When reflecting on her career, she added: “I made a lot of mistakes, and hopefully learned from them, but I can’t think of something I haven’t done. And I still have time.
“I’m only 38 so if there’s something I missed, I’m going to make sure that it’s done by the time I’m finished.” We may not have seen the last of Sorenstam yet. Watch this space to see if, and when, the super Swede returns.