HAIKOU, CHINA // Annika Sorenstam will leave competitive golf at the end of the year, although she's leaving the door open for a possible return. In June, Sorenstam announced she was 'stepping away' from golf at the end of this season, a phrase the ten-time major winner has repeatedly used rather than saying she's retiring. Now with a half-dozen events left before she plays the Dec 11-14 Dubai Ladies Masters, a Ladies European Tour event, she' is contemplating leaving the game. "We'll see if I will come back in a few years to play," Sorenstam said on the eve of the 54-hole Grand China Air tournament, the first LPGA event in the country.
"As of now, I'm leaving the door open. That's why I'm not using the `R' word." The 38-year-old Swede is getting married in January, and she expects family and business interests to keep her occupied. She designs golf courses, has a clothing line, a charitable foundation and runs a golf academy. Sorenstam said that she will not miss the 'daily grind' of professional golf, the practice, gym sessions and the pressure to perform. "I have done that for so long and I have enjoyed it very much," she said. "I've pushed myself. I've enjoyed the journey but I've come to a point now where I'm very happy, I'm very satisfied with what I have achieved."
Sorenstam clearly has reservations and is choosing her words carefully. "If I get the urge to come back, I have a chance," she added. "That's why I have never said this is the end. But we'll see. But I have no time frame. "There are new challenges ahead. Getting married and starting a family. Who knows, I might come out on tour sooner than later. It might be tougher than I think it is."
Sorenstam has won three times this season and heads the 63-strong field in China. The event is dominated by players from Asia, though England's Laura Davies is in the field. Yani Tseng of Taiwan will be among the crowd favourites at the West Coast Golf Club. She believes that the growth of the women's game will continue to expand in this part of the world. "If I would guess what will happen in the next five to 10 years, we're going to continue to see growth from this part of the world," she said. "I'm sure we're going to see a lot more Chinese players joining the LPGA."