Two days earlier, Annika Sorenstam had put the finishing touches on a final-round 66 that gave her a seven-shot victory at the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va. Seemingly on top of the world after that dominating performance, many believed that Sorenstam appeared ripe to contend again on a regular basis, just as she had for many of the previous 15 years.
After some serious consideration, I have made a decision to step away from competitive golf after this season, Sorenstam said. And this is obviously a very difficult decision for me to make, because I love this game very much. But I know it's the right one. I wanted to let you all know that. I feel like I have a responsibility to the LPGA, to my fans, and I wanted to announce it as early as I could.
She never won another tournament.
Thats not to say that the last seven months of her final season were uneventful. While they probably werent deemed a success by Sorenstams enormous standards, they did produce several memorable, unexplainable moments.
The first came at the U.S. Womens Open in June at Interlachen. The Swede didnt play particularly well, was facing the stark possibility of shooting 80 and was out of contention during the final round. Still, she found a way to receive the loudest roar. Using a 6-iron from 199 yards, Sorenstam holed out for eagle on the par-5 18th, sending the gallery into a frenzy. Although she shot 78, it was a proper punctuation to an impressive U.S. Open resume; one which put her on the map with three championship titles (1995, 1996, 2006).
A month later, Sorenstam's major championship tenure closed with a birdie on the final hole of the Womens British Open at Sunningdale. Again, the 38-year-old wasnt in contention, but that shot certainly made her final British Open experience more palatable.
The next week, Sorenstam used the 'ol 6-iron to create magic again at the Scandinavian TPC, a tournament she hosts in Sweden. There, Sorenstam holed another shot for eagle on the 71st hole. However, she still found herself seven shots off the lead.
I believe in fate. I always have. I think there was a reason why that shot (at the U.S. Womens Open) went in, Sorenstam said. I've had some moments this year that you can just not explain. Is that a coincidence? I don't know. I don't believe in that. So there's something to it.
Of course, there were a couple stinkers in there as well. The most glaring one in her LPGA farewell at the ADT Championship last month in West Palm Beach, Fla. Sorenstam wanted to finish her LPGA career on a high note and winning a $1 million first-place check against a star-studded field would fulfill that desire.
But those aspirations were silenced with a proverbial thud when Sorenstam shot 74-75 the first two days, missing the cut by two shots. With her entire family surrounding the 18th green at Trump International, Sorenstams celebration was cut short when the LPGA alerted her that she had been randomly selected for drug testing.
Her official season finale came in early December at the Dubai Ladies Masters on the Ladies European Tour. Fittingly, it was the tour where Sorenstam first teed it up professionally nearly a decade-and-a-half earlier. After opening with 70-66, Sorenstam found herself in the lead after 36 holes and was looking to accentuate her illustrious career with one final 'W'. But a third-round 75 dashed all hopes of an encore permformance. Again, and appropriately, Sorenstam made birdie on the final hole. She grabbed the flag from her longtime caddie Terry McNamara and gently placed it in the hole one last time.
The end had come.
That birdie put the finishing touches on a career that produced 72 victories, 10 major championships, 209 top-10 finishes and $22.5 million in earnings on the LPGA. Not to mention 18 other victories she collected from around the world.
I know the time is right, and therefore I feel very happy, Sorenstam said. If you think about 15 years and all of the things Ive achieved, its sad. But you close one door and you open another one. Im glad I have a chance to do that.