Time Finally on Annikas Side

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ORLANDO, Fla. ' Annika Sorenstam is a thoughtful person. Such a distinguishing characteristic works on many levels, but for this particular moment in time it relates to her careful consideration of answers to questions regarding her past, present and future.
 
For one hour, Annika and her fianc, Mike McGee, sat down with GolfChannel.com at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club.
 
Questions were posed and answers were thoughtfully and graciously given.
 
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam in 1996 and in 2008. (Getty Images)
But for one question in particular there was a quick response, one given with certainty, authority, and no hesitation.
 
Q: Think you will have any interest in playing at all in 2009, if just for one event?
A: No.

 
The response wasnt rude; far from it. It was simply given with brevity, because no other words were necessary.
 
On May 13, 2008, in Clifton, N.J., Annika Sorenstam announced that she was stepping away from competitive golf on the LPGA. At the time she was coming off her third victory of the season ' this after an injury-plagued and winless 2007 campaign.
 
She hasnt since won on the LPGA; though, she did come close last week and did win an event in China on the Ladies European Tour on Nov. 2. So, five months after her initial declaration, is she still as confident in her decision?
 
Absolutely, she says. Maybe a little more.
 
Again: short, sweet and firm.
 
This wasnt a decision made in haste. It wasnt a late-night or early-morning revelation. It was actually something she figured out late last year.
 
I would say that my win in Dubai (in December) pretty much confirmed it, she says. Knowing that the coming winter I needed to get back to practice and I just couldnt focus. I knew then. And when I decide on something I dont really question myself; its the way it is and Im doing it.
 
Dont mistake her assuredness, however, with complete contentment.
 
I still have a little battle within myself, because I know I can still win tournaments, but then Im not putting in the time that it takes to be the best. So I fight that constantly, she says.
 
Sorenstam is stepping away on her own terms, if not on top of the golfing world. She is no longer ranked No. 1. That distinction has belonged for a while now to Lorena Ochoa, something she achieved while Annika was fighting injury ' and a bit of professional apathy.
 
It wasnt as if Sorenstam was sitting on her couch, elbow deep in Cheetos, unmotivated to play tournament golf. Rather, her drive had shifted gears. Instead of golf, her strongest desires centered on her Annika Foundation; her Annika Academy; her Annika course design; her Annika fashion collection; her Annika wine; her Annika fragrance; her Annika financial group.
 
Its in these divisions that Sorenstam has found a singular professional focus: the Annika brand.
 
Sorenstam, at 38 years old, has reached that time in her life: time to do something else.
 
For 12, 13 years I was content doing that [focusing solely on golf]. Then I started thinking about other things; it just all kind of presented itself at the same time. And the more that presented itself the more enthusiastic I got and I fell away from competition, she says.
 
Thats why I feel like I can step away, because another win or another award isnt going to change my career or change me. Id rather spend my time on these other priorities.
 
To this point, Sorenstam has won 72 times on the LPGA, second most in tour history. Shes won 89 times around the world and has collected 10 major championship trophies, eight Rolex Player of the Year awards, eight money titles, six scoring titles, and too many LPGA records to count.
 
But there is a price to achieving that kind of success. After all, if anyone could just do it without considerable expense, then everyone would.
 
There was a time where it didnt really matter where I went, if I didnt win or finish in the top-3 it was a disaster, she says.
 
Obviously to get to the top you have to be very hard on yourself, you have to be critical to improve your weaknesses. But theres a point where ' like when I say Im upset at not finishing in the top 3 ' thats not healthy either. One of the reasons I want to step away from competition is because I wake up each morning and I want to shoot 68. There are expectations. I just cornered myself into a spot where I have to do this and if I dont then I cant enjoy it. It would have been nice if I didnt have that (critical side), but I dont think I could have accomplished what I did without it.
 
About five minutes after saying this, Annika, without prompting, returned to this thought.
 
I wonder if there is a way that I could have smelled the roses along the way. I dont know if there is. Its not that I dont remember ' its not that I dont appreciate it; its a blur in a way. When you win your first, then its only one event; its different. But you win 11 or 13 in one year, there are so many wonderful memories, then you put another 60, 70 on top of that ' I know it sounds weird, but you know what I mean? You can only enjoy it for a little time and then its on to something else.
 
Now its time for Annika to stop, smell whatever it is she wants to smell ' perhaps her Annika fragrance, and enjoy whatever it is that she wants to enjoy.
 
Like family life.
 
Annika Sorenstam and Mike McGee
Annika and husband-to-be Mike McGee. (Getty Images)
Sorenstam admits that she doesnt have a timetable, but she wants to have kids. She and Mike will be married in January and theyll take things from there.
 
She will still have a regimented work schedule while building her brand, but there will be much more free time on her hands. Sorenstam cant wait to do more skiing, something that was a little too dangerous for her during her prime years, and an activity in which she really didnt have time to partake.
 
Shell continue to exercise, but says she wont be working out five times a week. And, every now and again, youll find her on the range.
 
Just dont expect to see her playing a leisurely 18 with a regular afternoon foursome at Lake Nona.
 
Ive already spoken to the ladies at the club and they want me to join the Ladies League, she says.
 
Im not a social golfer.
 
That, however, doesnt mean Sorenstam will seclude herself inside the many walls of her expansive house.
 
One of the things Im most looking forward to is joining a community, becoming involved, she says. It wont be: come home, pack a suitcase, four days later pack it again, and repeat for three weeks. Theres no living, theres no bonding with where you are. That is going to be great.
 
For more than a decade, Annika Sorenstam has been viewed as a machine replete with efficiency and depleted on emotion; as her fianc describes: the stoic Swede with the Oakleys on who is going to step on your throat.
 
That is Annika on the course, which is how most all of us know her. As that part of her life comes to an end ' or extended pause ' McGee expects people to see a far more attractive side of his wife-to-be.
 
Ive always said shes a better person than she is a golfer, he says. I know some people might say, Whatever, but thats true.
 
Adds Annika: When I focus on something its all I think about, and I dont smile or interact with people. I mean, Im there to work. Thats why Ive been able to have the success Ive had.
 
And now two events remain: this weeks ADT Championship and the LETs Dubai Ladies Masters, Dec. 11-14.
 
After that not even Annika really knows. But she does know its not the end-all to her playing days. Shes not retiring. She has a difficult time even audiblizing that word.
 
The reason Ive never mentioned that word is because Im not (retiring). Im still going to play golf. I might come back (to the LPGA). Im far from doing that [retiring]. I guess everyone has their own definition of that [retiring], but Im just totally changing my focus. What might have been an 18-hour day with practicing and business, I may now be spending just 12 hours a day focusing on my business. I dont call that retiring. Im just stepping away from competition.
 
Thats why I dont use the R word.
 
What began in 1993 comes to a conclusion, of sorts, 15 years later. And, in typical Annika style, there is no time for reflection, no time for nostalgia.
 
How can she be (nostalgic)? asks McGee. Sunday night (after the ADT) we fly to Singapore, play and captain the Lexus Cup, go from there to Kuala Lumpur to see a course design and then to Dubai for another tournament. How do you sit there and enjoy it?
 
After Dubai there will be time to do so. Plenty of welcomed time.
 
Related Links:
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