LAKE ORION, Mich. -- Patty Sheehan does not seem able to get away from gut-wrenching last rounds in the U.S. Women's Open championship.
There were several notable failures before a change in game plans led to her playoff victory over Juli Inkster in 1992 at Oakmont Country Club.
That same game plan was present all week at Indianwood Golf and Country Club last week, and it returned the same dividend yesterday -- victory in the 49th championship.
"I pulled the reins back, tried not to be too aggressive, not to get crazy," she said. "It sounds really boring, but I wasn't going to change."
This time, she out-dueled Tammie Green, the hottest player on the LPGA Tour for the past month, in the final pairing of a warm, windy afternoon.
Sheehan's one-stroke lead entering the final round turned out to be the final margin after each matched par-71 over a difficult golf course made more so by much faster conditions than in earlier rain-softened rounds.
The champion finished with a 7-under-par 277, equaling the record low number set by Liselotte Neumann at Baltimore Country Club in 1988. Green was at 278, followed by Neumann, in her best showing since winning, 69281. The 69 equaled the low round of the day, a number matched by six others.
Helen Alfredsson, whose 76 Saturday pushed her two shots behind, polished off her collapse with a double bogey at the third and a triple bogey at the seventh. She ended 77285.
When she disappeared, and Donna Andrews failed to make a move before slipping away with bogeys at the seventh and ninth, the championship dissolved into a two-player race.
Sheehan won it with a four-foot putt on the 18th green after Green had missed from 10 feet. "It had a little left-to-right break, but I played it inside the hole," Sheehan said.
Of hers, Green said, "There wasn't a whole lot of break. I kept it inside the hole and it broke just a little more. I don't know whether it hit a spike mark or if it just broke that much. I felt, for the speed of the putt, if I kept it inside the left edge then I could make the putt, but it went pretty quickly."
Sheehan's game plan produced two bogeys, two birdies and three saves in what was generally a steady round.
Green's was even steadier with one bogey (No. 2, where she missed the green) and one birdie (five feet at No. 12). "I did all I possibly could do. I feel like I hung in there and gave Patty a run for her money."
Sheehan's earlier Open woes included losing a lead at Tulsa with a third-round 76, and eventually losing by a stroke in 1983; leading during the last round at Baltimore in 1988 before yielding to five back-nine birdies by Neumann; contending here in 1989 before knocking a tee shot out of bounds at No. 8 in the final round and making triple bogey; and in Atlanta in 1990 where she lost an 11-stroke lead the last day.
In 1992, she came out of a rain delay to make two birdies to tie Inkster, then won the playoff, 72 to 74.
This time, as in 1992, Sheehan had Carl Laib as her caddy, and she said he played a huge part in the win.
Two weeks ago, he was here for several days testing the greens, rolling balls to see the breaks, getting a feel for the course.
Last week, he was out early after the pins had been set -- he was the only caddy doing it -- making notes, preparing himself. And, as Sheehan said, "He was incredible. He told me where to put it to have the best shot, where to put the ball on the greens and then helped read the putts for me."
In the end, though, the pressure was on Sheehan, all 5-foot-3 of her, to hit the ball, make the putts. "I didn't hit the ball as well as I had the last three days. The wind was stronger. My putter saved me. I putted very well. And I really hung in there."
NOTES: At 37 years, nine months, Sheehan is the oldest winner since Babe Zaharias (40 years, one month) in 1954. . . . Sarah LeBrun Ingram, who has made the cut in three of her six appearances, finished third low amateur with 75297, her best 72-hole Open total. . . . Kim Williams, who made the cut for the first time in her ninth Open, shot 74292 and collected $6,048, raising her to $38,787 (77th).