Annika Calm Amid Chaos

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2006 ADT ChampionshipWEST PALM BEACH, Fla. ' We were surprised earlier this year when Annika Sorenstam told us she would be stepping away from golf.
 
We were surprised Friday when Sorenstam couldnt find it in her Hall of Fame game to rally past the 36-hole cut of the ADT Championship at Trump International.
 
And we were surprised after her final round of her final tournament to learn that the LPGAs random drug testing program had selected perhaps the best player in the history of the womens game to provide a urine sample despite passing an LPGA drug test last month.
 
Pathetic, said Sorenstams fianc, Mike McGee, when he learned his wife-to-be was about to be tested. I dont know what theyre trying to prove.
 
Turns out, according to the LPGA, it wasnt trying to prove anything. Its drug testing protocol, according to general counsel Jill Pilgrim, doesnt give it any leeway.
 
If we dont follow that protocol, Pilgrim said, we are legally liable. So, she said, there was no consideration given to letting Sorenstam off the hook in this instance even though she passed another random drug test just last month. More specifically, Pilgrim explained, if a player who failed a drug test, found out another player ' even Annika Sorenstam in her last event ' was given a free pass on a test, that player would have a pretty good lawsuit.
 
Only time will tell whether this will develop into yet another public relations nightmare for the star-crossed LPGA.
 
But for now, this day and this week is all about the departure of Sorenstam who played in 303 events, posted 209 top-10s and won 72 times.
 
This week was, to use the word of IMG's Mark Steinberg, historic.
 
It just wasnt memorable, at least not on the golf course where Annika struggled with her short game, carded a 36-hole total of 5-over 149 and failed to advance in an event she has won four times previously
 
Sorenstams last LPGA event in the United States before stepping away to get married and start a family wasnt memorable on the course because it was so frustrating.
 
My wife and I are Swedish, said a man in the gallery. And we are here to support Annika. But we are not doing a very good job.
 
His observation came during Fridays front nine. Sorenstam made the turn in a ragged 3-over-par 39. At that point her standing in the ADT Championship was 5 over. And her chances of advancing to Saturdays third round were dimmer than the lights on Wall Street.
 
Steinberg, who is Sorenstams agent and the head of IMGs golf division, followed Annika outside the ropes this week. So did McGee, and her parents, Tom and Gunilla.
 
But nobody was more frustrated than Sorenstam herself. She struck the ball beautifully in Thursdays first round but carded a 2-over 74 because she needed 33 putts.
 
Fact is, she has struggled with her putter for the better part of two years now. And she needed to heat up with the flat stick Friday. If she had been a great putter, she would have won 20 more tournaments, said her long-time caddie, Terry McNamara. McNamara has been on Sorenstams bag since 1999. He and Annika are extremely close professionally and he meant his remark as a compliment.
 
Asked after Fridays round if he thought his daughter would return to professional golf one day, Tom Sorenstam ' somewhat surprisingly ' said, No.
 
But, he added, she has always surprised him.
 
For her part, Sorenstam was just short of eloquent.
 
A sampling of comments from her post-round press conference:
 
  • Whats been the coolest thing this week is all these people that showed up I just didnt know who they were.
     
  • (On her lack of tears) Its almost that a tear wants to come out, but its not really coming out. I think its because Im very happy with what Ive done. You know, Im content. Ive said all along I feel good.
     
    Finally, Annika mentioned that she will be giving the commencement address at the University of Arizona, where she played her college golf, in December for that schools winter graduation ceremony.
     
    I think its pretty ironic to finish the year giving a speech, something that I dreaded when I started playing, she said. So what can I say? Its coming around. Ive changed. The game has changed me, and Im glad.
     

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