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Rumors of rocky marriage began last year

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Annika Sorenstam, the No. 1 player in
women's golf and one of the most famous female athletes in the
world, has filed for divorce from David Esch, her husband of eight
years.

"I want to confirm that I have filed for divorce," Sorenstam
said in a statement released to The Associated Press on Tuesday.
"We are working toward an amicable resolution and we appreciate
the media's respect for our privacy. I wish David nothing but the
best for the future."

Golfweek magazine reported the divorce was filed Feb. 4 in
Circuit Court of Orange County, not far from where Sorenstam and
Esch live in the gated community of Lake Nona. The suit has been
sealed, and no other details were available.

Sorenstam had hinted at early retirement in recent years, saying
she might want to start a family.

But rumors that the marriage was rocky began last year when
Esch, highly visible throughout Sorenstam's career, stopped
traveling as frequently. Esch began to work in real estate near
their summer home in Incline Village, Nev. They have been separated the
last two months.

He was last seen at the Samsung World Championship in Palm
Desert, Calif., in October, when Sorenstam shot 67 in the final
round to win.

But he was not at the season-ending ADT Championship, when
Sorenstam was presented with her seventh LPGA player of the year
award. Sorenstam thanked her husband in the acceptance speech, then
went on to win her eighth LPGA Tour victory of the year.

Sorenstam also was at Kapalua to play in the pro-am at the PGA
Tour's season-opening Mercedes Championships. She spent three days
on Maui with her sister, Charlotta.

The LPGA Tour season starts Feb. 24 in Hawaii, although
Sorenstam will not be playing. She is scheduled to make her 2005
debut the following tournament, March 4 in Mexico City.

The divorce could extend Sorenstam's playing career. While her
tournament load is not expected to increase, she might play longer
and give herself a chance to break Kathy Whitworth's all-time LPGA
record of 88 career victories.

Sorenstam has 56 career victories, including seven majors, and
33 in the last four years.

Sorenstam, 34, and Esch, 35, met in 1994 at Moon Valley Country
Club in Phoenix, where Esch worked for Ping. Seven years later,
Sorenstam shot 59 at Moon Valley, becoming the first woman to hit
golf's magic number on tour.

They got engaged at the end of 1995, after Sorenstam burst onto
the LPGA scene by winning the U.S. Women's Open. They married on
Jan. 4, 1997.

Of all her accomplishments, Sorenstam is best known as being the
first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour, when she missed
the cut at the Colonial in 2003.

Sorenstam was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame later
that year.