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Annika Sorenstam had won consecutive starts on the LPGA Tour in 2008 when she announced she would retire at the end of the season. The surprise decision was still fresh three weeks later when 19-year-old Yani Tseng won her first major.

Their paths cross again this week in a manner few could have imagined.

Both are playing the Gainbridge LPGA.

That’s news for different reasons.

Sorenstam turned 50 in October and has not competed on the LPGA Tour since the final event of 2008. Retirement never comes easily in golf, and Sorenstam was among the few who managed to walk away at the peak of her game. That’s not to suggest this is the start of a comeback, and she hasn’t said if anything else is in the works.

The Swede played the PNC Championship with her father in December and said she was being motivated to play more because her son, Will, was getting into golf. She also played the LPGA Tour season opener last month, although Sorenstam was part of the celebrity division.

She talked in December about wanting to dabble in senior events, specifically mentioning the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. Trouble is, that’s around the time of the Olympics, and Sorenstam recently was appointed to a largely ceremonial role of president of the International Golf Federation.

This week at Lake Nona, her home course in Orlando, Florida, she’ll be in the field alongside Jin Young Ko, the No. 1 player in women’s golf.

Ko was 13 when Sorenstam retired.

“I’m not sure I know Annika, just I heard Annika is legend,” Ko said. “But I want to play with her this week.”

That’s true for most everyone in the field.

Sei Young Kim, the No. 2 player in the world, was as happy to hear Sorenstam would be playing as she was to get away from her freezing home near Dallas.

“If I have chance, I want to play with her because she’s my idol when I was young,” Kim said. “I’m very happy to be very close to see her play.”

And then there’s Tseng, who should be in the prime of her career.

She had no reason to believe the great golf she played at the start of her career would not always be that way. Nothing ever lasts in this sport — Jordan Spieth is the latest who could speak to the highs and lows — but few have plummeted as far or as quickly as Tseng.

Tseng was 22 when she won her fifth major, making her the youngest player, male or female, to have that many majors at that age. She had 12 wins around the world in 2011. When she won the Kia Classic in March 2012 for her 15th LPGA Tour title, she was four points short of the LPGA Hall of Fame.

That was her last win.

Tseng reached No. 1 in the world and stayed there for 109 weeks, a streak second only to Lorena Ochoa. And then she stopped winning. She stopped contending. She fell into the trap of thinking she had to live up to her No. 1 ranking without recognizing that her game is what brought her there.

“I was looking at (what) I imagined world No. 1 should be, someone much better than I am,” Tseng said during the midst of her toughest times.

The last LPGA event for the 32-year-old was the Lotte Championship in Hawaii in April of 2019. She took a medical exemption and went home to Taiwan. Golfweek reported that Tseng enrolled in a 10-day meditation retreat that meant no talking, no computers, no eye contact. She cried for the first five days.

“I finally let it go,” Tseng told Golfweek. “I’ve been so hard on myself.”

She has been slowly dipping her toes back into the water, and the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to that. Tseng played five times over the second half of 2020 on the Taiwan LPGA, missing one cut and failing to finish in the top 25. She played another Taiwan event at the start of his year, the Hitachi Ladies Classic, where the highest-ranked player was No. 125.

Tseng, who returns this week at No. 919 in the world, tied for 55th.

Tseng used to live at Lake Nona — she bought Sorenstam’s old house — until moving to California for easier flights home to Taiwan. This will be the first big step back, and it’s a long road.

“I think this is a comeback from the depths,” said Judy Rankin, a Hall of Famer and longtime television analyst. “She didn’t have many bad experiences. And then you get mired in hard times. You get to where even if you get a couple under par, you see a black cloud.

“She did a very smart thing to get away,” Rankin added. “If she’s going to find it again, she’s taken a good path to take a good break.”

___

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WATCH: Simon Cowell Gives Interview to Ex-Girlfriend About His Accident

Photo by: Andrew Eccles/NBC Pictured: Simon Cowell

Speaking to his ex-girlfriend, Terry Seymour, during an interview with Extra, Simon Cowell recently shared that he knew he broke his back the minute he fell off an electric bike this past August while testing it out in the courtyard of his Malibu home.

At the time, Cowell’s rep told Hollywood Life, “Simon has broken his back in a number of places in a fall from his bike whilst testing a new electric bike in the courtyard of his home in Malibu with his family. He was taken to hospital where they operated overnight, he’s under observation and is doing fine.”

“It was really, really kind of sudden and hurt,” Cowell shared while talking to Seymour.

Simon Cowell Says He Nearly Smashed ‘Spine to Pieces' in First Interview About Broken BackSimon Cowell is opening up to “Extra’s” Terri Seymour about breaking his back, ahead of his return to “America’s Got Talent.”2021-02-24T19:22:04Z

The music mogul acknowledged that the situation could have been worse, stating, “When I saw the X-ray, I really nearly could have smashed my spine to pieces, so I literally wouldn’t have been able to walk.”

Cowell said he thought to myself, “I’ve got to get back into the house because I can’t lie there,” but he kept losing consciousness after he was successfully taken inside.

Following the accident, Cowell did his best to make light of the situation, and even Tweeted, “Some good advice… If you buy an electric trail bike, read the manual before you ride it for the first time.”

Here’s what you need to know.

Simon’s Six Hour Surgery

According to Page Six, Cowell broke his back in three places as a result of the fall and underwent a six-hour surgery. He had a metal rode placed on his spine, and in total, broke three vertebrae.

After the operation, he was put on a “regimen of very strong painkillers and [was asked to] remain largely confined to his bed,” according to Page Six. He also had 24/7 care by nurses.

During his interview with Extra, he spoke highly of his girlfriend, Lauren Silverman, 43, and their son, Eric, 7, saying he wouldn’t have been able to get through it without them.

“They were like my support. I couldn’t have gotten through it without them, so we got closer.”

Cowell Has Lost 20 LB Since the Accident

According to the Daily Mail, Cowell has lost a whopping 20 lb since his injury. The outlet explained that he has also adopted a vegan lifestyle.

When The Daily Mail snapped photos of Cowell spending time with Silverman and Eric last week, they wrote that he “looked relaxed” as he enjoyed his day out.

Why the diet change in the first place? When Cowell spoke to Ellen DeGeneres on her show in 2019, he told her, “I went to see this doctor in London. We did some tests. And then a month later he said, ‘You have the worst diet I’ve ever met from any patient.'”

He continued, “It’s like the Eric diet because he actually, apart from ice cream, he actually likes water. I mean, who likes water? And his raw vegetables. So I’m on the, like, Eric Cowell diet.”

It appears that Cowell’s terrible injury has convinced him to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and family and friends are cheering him on as he continues to heal.

READ NEXT: Watch: 17-Year-Old Alex Miller’s Leaked American Idol Audition Video

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