It is billed as a farewell season, but Annika Sorenstam doesn't entirely rule out a return to the LPGA Tour.
After all, the 15-year veteran who once dominated women's golf is still winning tournaments - three so far this year heading into the $2.25-million (U.S.) CN Canadian Women's Open at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club.
And while the 37-year-old Swede is no longer at the very top, she remains second on the money list to the new No. 1 on the circuit, Lorena Ochoa.
Sorenstam announced on May 13 that this year will be her last on tour, that she will be married in January (to long-time partner Mike McGee) and that she hopes to start a family as well as tend to her golf academy and business interests.
Retirement looks likely, particularly because her play has tailed off and she admits that her mind now sometimes drifts away from the golf course.
"If I will come back in the future, I guess time will tell," Sorenstam said yesterday. "In my announcement [on May 13] I said I was stepping away.
"I never used the r-word. That gave me an opening. But I don't have a time frame. I have a lot on my plate and I'm excited about the next chapter."
Sorenstam starts the opening round today in an impressive morning threesome with LPGA Championship winner Yani Yseng of Taiwan and U.S. Women's Open champion Inbee Park of South Korea, both 19.
Ochoa, who won the Canadian event last year at Royal Mayfair in Edmonton, plays in the afternoon with South Koreans Se Ri Pak and Seon Hwa Lee.
Lorie Kane of Charlottetown and Alena Sharp of Hamilton are the top hopes among the 16 Canadians in the field.
Sorenstam won the Canadian Open in 2001 at Angus Glen in Markham, Ont. - the year after it lost its status as one of the four majors - but hasn't been back since because it conflicted with the Scandinavian TPC in Sweden, a tournament she hosts.
A slight shift in schedules put the tournaments a week apart this year, giving her one "last" shot at another Canadian title.
To hear her talk, her mind seems made up on retirement.
"Golf has been tremendous to me and that's one reason I want to stay within the game - because I really love it," she said. "But what I'm not going to miss and one of the reasons I'm stepping away is that it's really hard work to grind every day.
"It's tough to travel every week. I've dedicated my life to it pretty much since I picked up a club. It's over 20 years. It's been living, breathing, eating and sleeping golf. So it's time. Golf is part of life, but it's not life."
Her rivals, including Ochoa, are not so sure she won't be back some day.
"If she goes out and doesn't miss practice and playing, then she's not coming back," the Mexican star said. "If she has a couple of kids and stays busy, she has no reason to come back.
"I think one year at a time and we'll see how it goes. I think it would be great to see her in five, six years playing at the U.S. Open or something and we can all enjoy her one more time."
Sorenstam has 72 tour victories, including 10 majors, and is already in the Hall of Fame. Ochoa passed her for the top ranking only in April of 2007.
Since announcing she was "stepping away," Sorenstam hasn't won a tournament. She wants to make the most of the eight tournaments left on her schedule.
"I'm doing the best I can to stay focused on the game," she said.
She has no concerns that the Tour will suffer too badly in her absence.
"Lorena is leading the charge now and she's a fantastic person and a great golfer, so I feel like the Tour is in great hands," she said.
It is also to be a final Canadian Open for veteran Dawn Coe-Jones of Lake Cowichan, B.C., who will retire at the end of the year after 25 years on tour.
The players would up preparations with a pro-am event yesterday.