ANIKKA: WHAT HER RIVALS ARE SAYING
Laura Davies is a “bit surprised” that Annika Sorenstam has decided to retire, saying it’s not a decision she would have made.
Former World No 1 Laura Davies is a “bit surprised” that Annika Sorenstam has decided to retire, saying it’s not a decision she would have made.
Lorena Ochoa, the Mexican star who has replaced Sorenstam as the World No 1, feels differently, on the other hand, indicating that if she was in the Super Swede’s shoes, she might well have done the same thing.
Sorenstam, one of the most successful women golfers in history, announced this week that she will retire at the end of this season – just two days after achieving her 90th world-wide professional victory.
“She’s at a different stage in her life and she wants to have kids and have the clinic and she has other things to do,” Ochoa said. “I think to find the love of doing something different outside the golf course is something that I admire, so congratulations to her.”
Ochoa is known to have similar ideas. Two years ago, she said she only planned to play six to 12 years. This is her sixth full season on the tour, and her plans are firmly on course.
“I don’t have a strict number which date I will finish, but I do want to go back home and just raise a family and have kids.
“Those are the plans,” said the two-time defending champion of this week’s Sybase Classic – she trails Sorenstam by a shot after the first round.
“You never know what is going to happen, but I would love to just finish here and be happy with my career and then just go back to Mexico and do things that I love to do, that I miss.
“Life is too short to not do them, and I like to be home.”
Ochoa sees Sorenstam as her greatest role model and motivator, both on and off the course.
She has always wanted to dominate the game the way Sorenstam has in a stellar 15-year career that has seen her win 72 tournaments on the US women’s tour including 10 majors.
“I’m going to miss her,” Ochoa said. “I do have mixed feelings. It’s sad. I think the LPGA is losing a big name.”
In the case of Davies, it is the English golfer’s belief that the 37-year-old Swede may have grown tired of the pressure of having to perform at the highest level.
Speaking as a guest in the Golf Night studio, Davies said with typical English understatement: “I must admit I’m a little bit surprised, but knowing Annika, she’s probably got plans and she wants to go out on a high.
“She’s obviously playing very well this year and it’s not a decision I would make. If I was winning tournaments on a regular basis like she is, I would think of going on forever.
“Annika’s achieved so much in the game over the years, perhaps she wants to do something different now. She’s fed up of winning maybe.
“She doesn’t do it the same way that I do it – she’ll go flat out, but she’ll play 10 or 11 tournaments less than I do every year.
“When she’s on the tournament site she’s practising, she’s in the gym and she’s fully committed every week.
“Perhaps she’s got fed up of the hard work that goes into winning and she doesn’t want to be playing second best.
“She had bulked up but she was injured last year and her size has gone back down again, so maybe she couldn’t put the effort in and that’s another contributing factor to why she doesn’t want to play tournament golf any more.”
Davies admits that Sorenstam would be a great loss to the game, although she has no doubt that Lorena Ochoa will take up her mantle as the dominant force in womens golf.
However, she feels it is a shame that golf fans will miss out on a potentially classic rivalry between the two players.
“She’s set the goal post very high and others have got to try and get there,” Davies continued.
“Lorena Ochoa’s obviously the one who looks most likely to take her crown at the moment but she’s got a long way to go because Annika’s set an amazing standard.
“She shot a round of 59, which nobody else has done in the ladies’ game and she actually had a really good chance for a 58 – and not too many men have done that. It would have been something else.
“I think what Lorena’s done in the last few years means there’s two iconic figures now and it’s such a shame that Annika’s not going to be around for three or four more years for them to go head to head.
“It would have been a great rivalry, but Annika’s decided she’s going to throw the towel in.”
Davies feels Sorenstam’s retirement could be permanent, even though some pundits have suggested she might return to the sport after starting a family.
However, Davies backed her to bounce back strongly if she did decided to make a comeback a few years down the line.
“Obviously she wants to settle down and start a family. She’s getting married next year and that will be the new focus.
“I understand she’s going to stay in golf somehow, maybe designing courses and she’s got a couple of academies around the world so maybe she’ll do a bit of coaching.
“She’s very single-minded and I think she might be gone for good. But if she wants to have a family and come back she can do it.
“I’m 44 and I still think I’m good enough to win tournaments so I’m sure she will when she’s 45.”
In the meantime there is a genuine feeling of impeding loss in women’s golf, but many pundits and the players have been quick to point out that no one is indispensable and that sport always seems to find new stars.
Ochoa suggested they could be Suzann Pettersen and Paula Creamer.
Australia’s greatest women golfer Karrie Webb agrees that stars always emerge to replace the old ones
“Certainly the tour will always miss a player like Annika,” she says, “But along the way, new stories will come, great players will come out and you know, I think they will more than come close to filling Annika’s shoes.”
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