RANCHO MIRAGE — Perhaps the best and worst thing about the Ladies Professional Golf Assn. tour is its predictability.
Same time. Same place. Same winners.
But Sunday's conclusion of the Nabisco Dinah Shore golf tournament was different. There were some role reversals. But there was also a lot of the same.
The record will show that Betsy King was awarded the $80,000 first-place prize money when Patty Sheehan missed a three-foot par putt on the second playoff hole after the two had tied over 72 holes at five-under-par 283.
In actuality, King won the tournament with two other shots--a sand-wedge shot on the 16th hole of Bob Tway-like proportions and a 93-yard approach shot on the first playoff hole.
But the shotmaking wasn't nearly as interesting as the people and how they acted out of character.
King is one of the best players on the LPGA tour, except no one has heard of her. She lists her home as Limekiln, Pa., although many have suspected Stepford would be a better place. She's won nine tournaments since joining the tour, two of them in the last three weeks.
But, on Sunday, there was a first. King showed some emotion while shooting a final-round 68. She was trailing Sheehan by one stroke when she hit a bad drive on the 16th hole. The problem was compounded when she sent her second shot into the bunker 45 feet from the pin.
But, as you might have guessed by now, she blasted out and into the cup. King jumped. King danced. King even hugged NBC commentator Bob Goalby.
"I've never gotten that excited on a golf course before," she said. "I've had holes in one, double eagles . . . but I let it go for a second. I knew Patty was playing well, and I knew where I stood."
Sheehan, on the other hand, is known as one of the more animated players on the tour. She's well liked by the fans and entertaining to watch. But earlier in the week, after Sheehan shot an opening-round 77, she went home and cried.
"I was very disappointed," she said. "A lot of people had been wondering what was wrong with me."
But there was nothing wrong with her, as Sunday's round of 65 will attest.
And, just when you might be thinking that the LPGA was going to turn away from its predictable image, things snapped back to normal.
Sheehan, the loser, brought the champagne to reporters after the round and King, the winner, told everyone she doesn't drink. ("I think I had some punch at Christmas," she said.)
The playoff was almost anti-climactic to what turned out to be a very exciting finish.
King put her first shot on the first playoff hole (the 15th) into the trees. She had to chip her second shot back into the fairway. Sheehan, meanwhile, put her second shot on the green.
But King hit her third shot eight feet from the pin and made the putt. Sheehan took two putts from 10 feet.
"I'm sure for Patty, with me 93 yards out and her on the green, that she had to feel she'd win the tournament," King said.
There was little interesting about the second playoff hole other than the fact that Sheehan missed a three-foot par putt. It's tragic after Sheehan's sensational round, but the tournament was lost by Sheehan, not necessarily won by King.
The tournament had plenty of drama, mostly supplied by defending champion Pat Bradley, who shot a 69 Sunday for a 284 total. She was alternately jumping from first to second on the leader board all afternoon.
She could have also been in the playoff if she had made a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole. But she missed and only two advanced.
In uncharacteristic fashion, Bradley had some tempered words to say about King after the round.
For the last four weeks, King's caddy, Jim Gilmore, has been standing behind her during her swing to help align her shots.
Bradley said she felt she was playing three people on Sunday--Sheehan, King and King's caddy.
King defended her actions.
"There have been quite a few people who have noticed but no one will say anything to me," King said. "They ask the officials and find that it's legal. I also thought it was a rule (that the caddy couldn't stand behind the golfer), but they changed that rule.
"Jim started doing that at Hawaii (four weeks ago) because I was having alignment problems. . . . It's a little bit of a security blanket."
But when you put aside the sniping, the griping and the winner, the real hero of the tournament was Sheehan.
She had more than her share of the 13,804 in attendance. She had eight birdies and one bogey during her first 18 holes Sunday.
"I don't think I can beat myself into the ground because I missed a three-foot putt," Sheehan said. "It was just one of those days when everything came together. . . . It was just one of those days where you don't know anyone else is out there. It's difficult to explain what a 'zone' is, but I was in one.
"Even though I didn't win the tournament, I feel like I did," Sheehan said. "This round was pretty incredible, to come from six-over-par to almost winning the tournament is pretty darn good."
Others who did pretty darn good, but not as well as King, Sheehan or Bradley, were Rosie Jones, who finished two shots back in fourth place after shooting a 68 Sunday, and Chris Johnson, Ayako Okamoto and Colleen Walker, who finished four back at one-under-par 287. Cathy Gerring and Jane Geddes finished the tournament at even-par.
And even-par was all it took to win the two-hole playoff.
And what did Sheehan think of King's performance?
"Since I only saw her on two holes, I think she made two great pars," Sheehan said with a smile.
Well, looks like things on the LPGA tour are back to normal.