STATELINE, Nev. — Don’t call it a comeback — because it’s not.
Annika Sorenstam might be coming out of retirement to play in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship this week in South Lake Tahoe but that doesn’t mean she’s planning on testing the waters of competitive golf in order to launch a comeback on the LPGA Tour. But the best woman to ever play the game is ready to dust her clubs off to do what she has always done best: Compete.
"Certainly it’s not going to change my mind and sign up for an LPGA event next week if that’s what you were thinking," Sorenstam said Thursday, following a practice round at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. "I think once you’re a competitor, you’re always a competitor. Growing up I was competitive in cards and downhill skiing, I competed in tennis for years. Yes, I’m extremely competitive."
Sorenstam’s life today looks far different than it did back in the days when she was dominating the LPGA Tour. She runs multiple businesses, balancing the day-to-day aspects of a clothing line, a golf academy, a wine label and a family. She lives with her husband and two young kids, Ava (nearly five years old) and William (three years old) in Florida most of the year and about half the year, she lives in the Lake Tahoe area in Incline Village.
Sorenstam looks forward to this event every year, typically watching from a party boat with friends. So when the phone call came in to her husband, Mike McGee, asking if she would be interested in playing, he said, "I doubt it."
Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam out of retirement to play in Lake Tahoe.
But his wife surprised him by accepting the invitation, and somewhat quickly, as well. He figured she wouldn’t want the scrutiny. She saw it as "fun."
"This is not just a little charity event. I mean, this is serious — this has been going on for 20 something years and it’s on NBC and people are going to judge me how I play," she said. "So that’s maybe not the situation I want to be in a way, but I’m content with that."
She said McGee, her caddy this week, felt people might say, "What happened to her?" And she admits that her game has changed. Her driving distance is far from what it once was and she’s not as consistent either.
Never one to back down from a challenge, she’s playing from the men’s tees this week. Undaunted, because she still has the same natural feel around a golf course that she’s always had. An intangible that none of these lifelong athletes can learn from even the most famed swing coaches.
"The one thing that hasn’t changed is her golf swing, and it’s beautiful to watch," said former NFL quarterback and winner of the 1990 event, Mark Rypien. "I snuck out a few times today, when I was not hitting my ball myself, and looked over and watched it. It’s a beautiful thing."
She wants to be clear that this is not an attempt to tune up her game in order to test the waters of a comeback. Sorenstam wants to enjoy the weekend and all of the events that come along with it, including her kids seeing her play competitively for the first time.
She once played nine holes at Edgewood in quite a formidable foursome with Michael Jordan, Donald Trump and Ahmad Rashad and shot 3-under. She admitted that she has been working with her former coach for the last couple months.
"It’s such a great game and I want to continue to enjoy the game," she said. "But I’m not going to go out there and goof around by any means. Like I said, I’m serious."
Yes, this is fun. But as any of the other former champions in the field this week can tell you, so is winning.