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Sorenstam announces plan to retire this year

Annika Sorenstam will retire after the season, ending an LPGA Tour career in which she has won 72 tournaments to date and delivered a defining moment when she teed it up against the men on the PGA Tour.

'I think I've achieved more than I ever thought I could,' she said during a news conference Tuesday at the Sybase Classic in Clifton, N.J. 'I have given it all, and it's been fun.'

The 37-year-old Sorenstam has hinted at retirement the past several seasons, saying she wanted to devote more time to her growing business and to start a family. She is engaged to Mike McGee, son of former PGA Tour player Jerry McGee.

'This would be very much like Annika to get on top and then quit,' said Judy Rankin, a Hall of Famer and television analyst.

Sorenstam said her final event would be the Dubai Ladies Masters after the LPGA Tour season ends.

'I'm leaving the game on my terms,' she said.

The decision comes two days after Sorenstam won the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill by seven shots for her third victory of the season, and first against a field that included Lorena Ochoa. It was a sign that Sorenstam had fully recovered from injuries and was poised to make a strong bid at recapturing her stature as the best in women's golf.

'It's sad to see the greatest female golfer of all time step away from the game,' said Tiger Woods, who has played practice rounds with Sorenstam. 'But it's nice to see Annika did it on her terms. It has been a pleasure watching Annika play for all of these years, but even more an honor to call her a friend.'

'I just hope to continue this momentum,' Sorenstam said after winning. 'I'm feeling it. It's turning around, and so I can't wait for the next month or so to come with big tournaments, and I'm excited.'

Sorenstam dominated women's golf like few others, especially during a five-year period when she won 43 times and finished among the top three nearly 70 percent of the time. But for all her achievements - the only woman to shoot 59, 10 majors and one of six women to complete the career Grand Slam - she became most famous for testing herself against the men.

Sorenstam became the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour when she played at the Colonial in 2003. She missed the cut, but earned worldwide respect for the way she handled herself amid massive scrutiny.

She won LPGA Tour player of the year a record eight times, including five straight seasons until Ochoa ended the streak in 2006. Sorenstam was ineffective most of 2007, the first time in 12 years she failed to win on the LPGA Tour, as she recovered from back and neck injuries.

She won the first tournament of the year in Hawaii, picked up a playoff victory in South Florida three weeks ago, then continued a slow rise in the world rankings toward Ochoa with a dominant victory in Virginia.

But when asked Sunday if she would defend her title at Kingsmill, Sorenstam hedged.

'I hope so,' she said. 'I'm going to continue this year the way I started it and at the end of the year. I always assess it like I have the last few years. At this point, I feel great about what I'm doing.'

Sorenstam still faces a large deficit to reclaim the No. 1 ranking from Ochoa, although LPGA Tour players measure themselves more on winning the money title and the points-based player of the year award. Those are easily within reach for Sorenstam with the season not even halfway over.

Sorenstam's 72 victories put her third on the LPGA Tour's career list behind Kathy Whitworth (88) and Mickey Wright (82). She is tied for fourth in career majors, five behind record-setter Patty Berg.

But those kind of marks never appealed to Sorenstam, even when she was winning at least 10 times during a season. She often talked about stopping sooner than people imagined to pursue other interests, whether that meant her affinity for cooking or fitness.

Sorenstam opened a golf academy last year near her home in Orlando, Fla., also launching her brand ('Annika') and a Web site. Sorenstam plans to marry next spring.