- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2008

SUNNINGDALE, England | When it came time to say she was leaving golf, Annika Sorenstam confided in Tiger Woods.

“I told him what my plans are, what I’m going to do, and he said, ‘I’m happy you’re at peace with your decision. I wish you all the best,’” she said Tuesday. “He did tell me that I beat him to this, and I said, ‘Well this is the only thing I beat you at.”’

Sorenstam, speaking before her final major at the Women’s British Open, will be quitting golf at the end of the season. Woods is laid up for the rest of the year with a knee injury.

“He’s kind of stepped away already,” the Swede said. “I have five more months.”

Fully recovered from her long-term back injury, Sorenstam has won three titles this season, has been runner-up twice and has also finished third and fourth. Hardly the results of someone who is quitting.

Sorenstam refuses to use the word “retirement,” although she insists she has no plans to return.

“No, the door is not closed, and that’s why I don’t use the ‘r’ word,” she said. “I said I’m stepping away, and all of my sponsors are staying with me. Maybe they are hoping that I’m going to come back.”

But Sorenstam says she has lost the motivation that made her the most successful player in women’s golf from the mid-1990s until the emergence last year of Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa and a group of young Americans and South Koreans.

“This is not something I thought off during a little coffee break,” Sorenstam said. “It wasn’t one particular day or one particular moment. I think it’s been coming on for a little while, and I felt this winter that it was very obvious that my focus wasn’t there.

“The motivation wasn’t there, and it was very hard to set up goals. It’s very hard to wake up every day and go to every tournament and put pressure on yourself every single day. That’s very hard.”

Sorenstam hopes to make it her 11th and final major title Sunday.

“My expectations are always high,” said Sorenstam, who has won this event once. “I believe in myself, and I know I can play this golf course, but the competition is tough. I am going to try and stay competitive as much as possible. If I could win it this week, I could say I have achieved everything I possibly can.”

Sponsors, caddies and fans have tried to persuade her not to quit, but no players have.

“I haven’t been that emotional,” she said. “There have been a few tournaments where I have choked up coming down the stretch. But if you feel content about something and you know it’s the right reason, I don’t really get that emotional,” she said.

Sorenstam is engaged and looking to start a family at age 37. She also wants to develop her own academy, golf foundation and clothing lines. Hosting events are in her plans as well.

“I am a very competitive person,” she said. “Coming down the stretch to make birdie to force a playoff or holing a putt to win, there’s a special adrenaline that pumps. I will miss that. I will miss the friends and some of the courses. But I’m planning on taking my competitive drive into the business world. I think I am going to need it.”

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