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Despite Losing in a Playoff, Sheehan Stays in a Bubbly Mood

April 06, 1987|DAN HAFNER | Times Staff Writer

RANCHO MIRAGE — The loser brought the champagne.

Although she missed a three-foot putt on the second extra hole and made Betsy King the winner of the Dinah Shore golf tournament, Patty Sheehan came into the press tent Sunday bearing champagne.

Sheehan, still on a high after shooting a seven-under-par 65 to come from three strokes behind and force a playoff with King, was in a festive mood.

"Let's pop these suckers," she yelled. "Hey, it's party time."

She wondered if she could reach the ceiling of the tent with the cork. She could. Another bottle appeared and she sent that cork soaring to the top.

"I feel pretty good after almost missing the cut (and then getting) into a playoff," she said. "I went from six over after 36 holes to five under. I know I'll feel good tonight."

The putt she missed on No. 16 that gave the title to King cost Sheehan about $13,000 a foot. For finishing second, she earned $42,000. The winner received $80,000.

Oddly enough, it was a hot putter that enabled Sheehan to shoot her 65. It came on a day when she hit just six fairways, two of those coming on the playoff holes.

It seemed Sheehan spent most of the day hitting the ball out of the woods or the rough. When she was in the fairway, the ball was often in a trap.

She birdied the first three holes and figured she was moving into contention. With no leader board on the front nine, she didn't know that King also had birdied the first three.

On No. 1, she was in the rough on the left, pitched to within 12 feet and sank the putt. On the par 5 second, she was in a fairway trap on the right, hit a six-iron far left into high grass, chipped to 12 feet and again sank the putt. On three, a 400-yard par 4, she varied her drive, hitting a 3-iron into the right rough. A nice approach left her with a 10-footer for the third birdie in a row.

Her next birdie came on six, when she made a 15-footer; then she saved par with a 10-footer on seven. She continued to stray from the fairway but rallied for pars until the 10th. Then, her drive was into a bunker on the left. She was 18 feet from the cup on her approach and sank the putt.

It was on the 11th that she finally put her drive in the fairway. Then, on the par-5 hole, she hit a four-wood fat, chipped to within 13 feet and made her sixth birdie of the day. Her seventh birdie came on the par-3 14th when she hit a 7-iron within three feet of the cup.

This put her momentarily in the lead. Her only bogey cost her the lead on the next hole. She hit a two-iron into the right rough and missed a 10-foot par putt. Sheehan regained the tie on 16 with her eighth birdie in the incredible round. On the hole, she was behind a tree, hit an approach shot to within 15 feet and sank another birdie putt.

It was a tremendous rally from an opening-round 77 after which she had gone home and cried.

"I'm proud of myself," she said. "I didn't die. I kept telling myself to just keep making birdies and everything will take care of itself.

"At nine, I finally learned that I was two shots back. I told myself to just keep it up. It was exciting, but I lost."

It was not an exciting tournament for Nancy Lopez. The gallery favorite shot a three-over 75 for a 72-hole total of 298, and finished in a tie for 33rd place in a tournament she thought she could win.

Lopez was in a rush to get back to Baltimore for her husband Ray Knight's debut with the Orioles.

"I'm going to work on my game until I get it right," she said with feeling. "You may not see me for a while. I'm signed up at Santa Barbara (in two weeks), but if I don't get things straightened out it may be a month or two before you see me.

"Everything seems to be wrong. I'm hitting the ball too quick and I'm putting poorly. The wind, if it didn't do anything else, ruined my confidence.

"Although I wasn't putting all that well, I came here thinking I had a good chance to win. The one-under 71 in the opening round was all right. But when the wind came up Friday, I started swinging too quick. I haven't slowed down yet."

This is the third time in the four tournaments she has played in since winning at Sarasota, Fla., Feb. 8, that Lopez has finished far back.

Still, the crowds follow her almost as faithfully as they do Arnold Palmer. After finishing her round Sunday, she cheerfully signed autographs for nearly 15 minutes.

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