Sorenstam's storied LPGA career ends

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Standing in the center of a sun-drenched 18th green, as waves of cheers rippled from a packed gallery, Annika Sorenstam hugged caddie Terry McNamara and took the flag from his hand.

She held it high, like a conquering hero, then slammed it into the hole.

"It's over," she said.

Sorenstam's tour career presumably ended Friday afternoon, when she failed to qualify for the third round of the ADT Championship. She shot a 3-over 75, putting her at 5 over for the week — two shots away from surviving the cut from 32 down to 16 for Saturday, after which the field will be pared in half again before the final round battle for $1 million.

"All of a sudden, the time is here," Sorenstam said. "You're standing there on the 18th fairway and it's your last approach shot in an LPGA event. A lot of thoughts go through your head ... and what's been the coolest thing this week is all these people who showed up that I don't know, my fans."

They showed up in droves Friday. When Sorenstam was on the 16th tee, hundreds crowded around her and playing partner Laura Diaz. At the same moment, about 100 feet away on the 11th tee, a gallery of exactly nine people watched a South Korean twosome.

Everyone wanted to see history, in case it really was the final round of Sorenstam's 72-win, Hall of Fame LPGA career.

Even Lorena Ochoa — the defending ADT champion, who also didn't advance to the weekend — showed up at the 18th green to give her friend and rival a farewell hug.

"I can't imagine how she's doing right now," Ochoa said. "But I guess it will come for all of us at one point. So we can only say that we enjoyed having her and thank you for everything."

Sorenstam won the ADT four times, but never reached the weekend in the unusual double-cut, erase-the-scores format, and knew she'd have to make up some ground Friday. She just never got it going.

"I was hoping to shoot par or better today," Sorenstam said.

Par would have been good enough.

Sorenstam missed a makable birdie putt on the opening hole, then split the fairway with a long drive on the second. But her approach nestled in long, dew-soaked grass short and right of the green, and her chip advanced the ball only a few feet, leaving her with a 25-footer for par.

Sorenstam wound up needing three putts to finish that hole, then strung together six straight pars before making bogey on the ninth. On the 10th, she created some hope with a birdie but, barring a comeback, that was the last of her career.

"I hope she would come back, but I don't think so," said Tom Sorenstam, Annika's father, who was there every step of the way Friday, as was mother Gunilla, who clenched a half-empty bottle of champagne behind the 18th green. "But she never tells me anything."

Katherine Hull shot 71 to get to 5 under, making her the leader after two rounds, a fact that will be completely irrelevant Saturday morning. The scorecards of the surviving 16 all get erased for the third round, and will again when the final eight play Sunday.

Angela Stanford finished 4 under, one shot ahead of Christina Kim, In-Kyung Kim and Paula Creamer, who was up most of the night before with the flu but shot her second straight 71.

"This is one of the hardest rounds I've ever had to play," said Creamer, who will win the season money title if she wins the tournament.

Others who advanced included Jeong Jang, Angela Park, Seon Hwa Lee, Ji-Yai Shin, Helen Alfredsson, Eun-Hee Ji (who was 7 over on her final three holes and got through anyway), Jee Young Lee, Suzann Pettersen, Sun Young Yoo, Karen Stupples and Karrie Webb.

Only one of this year's four major champions reached the weekend: Shin won the British Open.

Plenty of star power drove off Friday afternoon, including regular Trump International players Cristie Kerr and Morgan Pressel, the world No. 1 in Ochoa and LPGA champion Yani Tseng.

"Certainly the two biggest names are out and I'm sure ADT is not happy about that," Pressel said.

Another major winner left Thursday, when U.S. Open champion Inbee Park withdrew after 14 holes.

"It was just a tough week," Ochoa said. "Hard to concentrate."

Certainly that was the case for Sorenstam, who isn't walking away from the game quite yet. She'll arrive in Singapore on Monday, play the Dubai Ladies Masters in three weeks and deliver the commencement address at the University of Arizona — her old school — on Dec. 20.

"The good thing is, I have a lot of fun things ahead of me," she said.

For starters, there was dinner with her parents and some family Friday night. Then a quick trip home to Orlando, where she'd pack for Singapore and Dubai. And there'll be some more stories and tears, both of which dotted her ADT week with regularity.

Most tour players believe she'll be back, someday, and Sorenstam isn't shy about saying it's tempting.

"There's part of me that wants to stay here and enjoy it a little more," Sorenstam said, her voice getting softer with every word. "I wish I could say goodbye to the people that made plans to come tomorrow. But I hope to see them again, another time."

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