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"I've been playing with quite a bit of pain for the past several weeks. I couldn't take it much more."
Sorenstam saw a doctor after her pro-am round on Wednesday and was diagnosed with a badly herniated Nucleus Pulposus (ruptured disc) in the C 5-6 area and a Thoracic (bulging disc) in the T 6-7 area."Obviously it's not good for anybody if Annika is not playing," tour veteran Laura Davies told The Associated Press. "It's the same as if Tiger [Woods] had a monthlong injury and a bad back. Not that people wouldn't watch it, but they'd rather see the premier players up there, and Annika is and has been a premier. Has been for a long time."
Sorenstam had a hip injury late in the 2005 season but played through it. She has never appeared in fewer that 17 LPGA tournaments a season since 1994 and played 20 events in each of her last two seasons. She has played three times this year, with her best finish being a playoff loss to Meaghan Francella at the MasterCard Classic.
The Hall of Famer told Golf World earlier this year that she was beginning to plan for her life after golf, launching a variety of businesses, including a course-design operation and a golf school under the brand name ANNIKA. Her golf academy is scheduled to open on Monday at the Reunion Resorts & Clubs, site of the Ginn Open. Sorenstam plans to be on hand for the launch.
Sorenstam was off to a slow start this season, finishing T-8 in the Safeway International and T-30 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship after her playoff loss to Francella. It has been clear something was amiss as her driving distance has dropped off significantly this year. Her swing coach, Henri Reis, attributed the loss of power to a swing flaw causing her to hit a weak fade, but now Sorenstam says she has had weakness in her right arm for several weeks.
The Swede with 69 career victories and 10 major championships has followed one of the most rigorous workout programs in all of golf since after the 1999 season. Her legendary workouts include doing pushups with 50 weights on her back and pull-ups with 10-pound ankle weights. In a sport where back problems are not uncommon, however, she has remained a model of health. The question now will be whether the injury will hasten her evolution into the next phase of her professional career.Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.