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Annika Sorenstam: A quitter or just being Swedish?

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,
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Annika Sorenstam
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Annika Sorenstam's recent retirement announcement caught many off guard. (Brandon Tucker/WorldGolf.com)

The obvious story behind Annika Sorenstam's abrupt and startling retirement announcement is that she's a quitter.

She had it all to herself on the LPGA Tour for more than a decade, starting when she began dominating women's golf in the mid-1990s.

And when someone finally comes along who can consistently beat her, who takes away her top-dog ranking, she up and quits. I mean, Sorenstam is only 37. That's the physical prime for a golfer, and she apparently had recovered from the injuries that bedeviled her last year.

Sorenstam said all the usual things in her announcement two days after winning the Michelob Ultra: She wants to start a family, she wants to devote more time to her growing businesses, she wants to smell the roses, yada, yada, yada.

Funny this should happen when a young Mexican phenom, Lorena Ochoa, has the world stage firmly in her grasp.

Yeah, that's the obvious story, but it's got no legs. Because, frankly, Sorenstam is just so darn nice.

Has there ever been a more understated superstar than Sorenstam?

Bjorn Borg, maybe. Roger Federer?

Maybe it's something in the Scandinavian blood. Even though Sorenstam was the dominant force in women's golf for years, her reputation was matched by her personality, as low-key as a Perry Como CD.

When she conquered the women and competed against the men, no one seemed to think it was showboating; it was simply seen as a logical progression.

And when she learned she wasn't strong enough to keep up with the males, she just admitted it and quit. No one criticized her.

Yet when Michelle Wie did the same thing, you'd have thought the world order had changed. Controversy, insults, counter-insults, frenzy, anger, resentment.

Of course, that had something to do with the fact Wie, in many people's eyes, hadn't earned the right to compete against the men. And when she, like Sorenstam, failed, Wie explained it away with excuses, unlike Sorenstam.

Maybe Sorenstam is just being Swedish.

They don't have wars or revolutions over there. Swedes are very different from you and me. They're introverts. They hate to brag, they hate confrontations, they like to be alone, like Greta Garbo. They don't like to criticize.

I often gripe about wealthy golfers like Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk calling Ponte Vedra their "hometown." Ponte Vedra is my hometown. They only moved there when it became a haven for rich swells.

Swedes would never do that. I was in Sweden recently and tried to get a rise out of half a dozen Swedes by asking if they resented Sorenstam's move to America.

To a person, they seemed politely surprised by the question.

"No, the climate's better and she can make more money there," was the standard response, in so many words.

Despite being a superstar, Sorenstam always seemed shy. That's a national trait, too.

Again, that's very different from over here, though the country is certainly more Americanized than it used to be.

"Shy people [in America] are thought of as being both less competent and less intelligent," writes Ake Daun, a professor at the University of Stockholm. "Therefore, Americans try to hide or overcome their shyness.

"This is not the case in Sweden. Shyness is a positive trait. Shy people in Sweden are often looked upon positively and may be regarded as sensitive and reflective, and therefore non-pushy."

Sorenstam is definitely non-pushy, and those who know her well would probably describe her as sensitive and reflective as well.

And besides, what if she did just quit? What's wrong with that?

I myself quit often. You should try it. It's very underrated.

The world needs more quitters.

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

 
Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Tiger ages, Annika quits

    JJGowland wrote on: May 20, 2008

    Interesting that these two articles appear on the same day.
    Tiger at 32, because of his longevity at the game, his body is getting older (ah, poor guy) and seems entitled, but Annika at 37, who has solid golfing success, a continuing golf business (not mentioned), and is adding new family interests, but she is a 'quitter'.

    Reply