Annika Sorenstam's farewell tour was to officially start yesterday, when the 37-year-old Swedish superstar was to tee off for the first time since announcing plans to retire at the end of the year.
Sorenstam is second on the money list and in the world rankings to Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa, who took over the world No. 1 spot from Sorenstam 13 months ago. Sorenstam will try to reclaim the top spot before walking away, but she could find it difficult given the form that Ochoa, the two-time defending Sybase champion, is showing this season.
Ochoa is undefeated in the tournament, having won both the 2006 event at Wykagl in New York and last year in the first year at Upper Montclair Country Club.
“It’s a tournament that always treats me good and [I have] happy memories. I think it’s important to feel that way and to be positive and feel comfortable when you play, and it will be great to win the tournament again,” Ochoa said. “I’m going to try to do whatever it takes to give myself a chance and to be out there on Sunday.”
Ochoa won the Sybase Classic last year by three strokes over South Korea’s Sarah Lee. She made up a two-shot deficit on the eventual runner-up going into the final round.
Ochoa said that some changes to the course had made it more challenging.
“I think the course is in great shape,” she said. “I think it’s playing a little bit longer, that’s for sure. I also saw some of the fairways are narrower and that’s going to be a big challenge.”
“But I think this week more important is to be good from the tee. You have to be able to hit a lot of fairways, and that makes things a lot easier. The rough is higher and there’s different type of grass around the greens. I’m going to try to play easy golf and hit a lot of fairways and go from there,” she said.
Ochoa opened the year with four straight victories and won five of her first six starts before finishing fifth at the SemGroup Championship and tied for 12th at last weekend’s Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill.
“I’m pretty happy with my response the last two weeks,” Ochoa said. “While it’s important to be consistent all year and what’s important is to try to step up in every tournament and I will never give up even if I don’t have a chance to win, just start making bogeys and walk away.”
“I will try to finish the best way, and at the end in November, if you are consistent and you are up there every week, it doesn’t matter if you don’t win. I’m going to achieve my goals, to stay at the top. So just golf, having the last two weeks, it’s just the way golf is. You have to understand and accept them and keep going,” she said.
Ochoa was to tee off yesterday in a group with former world No. 1 Karrie Webb of Australia and South Korea’s Lee Jee-young.
Sorenstam, a three-time winner this year, will be playing behind her in a group with Cristie Kerr and Natalie Gulbis.