DULUTH, GA., JULY 14 -- Friday night Patty Sheehan made a prediction. She had just finished three holes of the second round of the 1990 U.S. Women's Open before play was stopped because of darkness. The constant rain, she said, had made the fairways soft. But it had also left the greens open to the suggestion of accurate and gutsy approach shots.
"It's kind of like shooting darts out there," said Sheehan. And so she made her prediction: The best dart shooter would do well on Saturday.
Sheehan must play a mean game of darts. Her 68 today left her at 10-under-par 134, six shots ahead of second-place Jane Geddes.
And she doesn't mind waiting her turn. The tournament leader was held at bay another six hours today while the Atlanta Athletic Club's Riverside course tried to drain the results of Friday night's downpour. Second-round play, originally scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m., did not begin until 1 p.m. Even then the fairways held pools of water, forcing players (102 completing their round a day late) to make drops.
With 36 holes done at last, after multiple interruptions for storms Thursday and Friday, USGA officials hope to complete the Open by playing 36 holes Sunday.
Elizabeth Burkholder smacked a tee shot on the 400-yard No. 12 that punched into the fairway, spun in the sludge and jumped back a foot. Burkholder walked up to the ball, looked down in astonishment and said to playing partner Tara Fleming, "This ball actually hit and bounced backward." Such was Burkholder's luck. She finished at 15 over par for the two rounds, well off the mark to make the cut.
Sheehan fared better. Much.
She easily broke Betsy King's two-round record of 138 set at last year's Open and finished well clear of Geddes, who finished the second round Friday and was a spectator today.
"The golf course is playing long and difficult and I'm playing very, very well," Sheehan said.
Starting on No. 4, a 362-yard par-4, she began a methodical, controlled run that would be derailed but one time, a bogey on 10.
On No. 5, a dogleg right par-4, and on the par-3 seventh hole, Sheehan barely missed short birdie putts. The trend would not continue. At 172-yard No. 8 Sheehan dropped a 5-iron tee shot 15 feet past the hole and rattled the cup for a confident birdie to go eight under. "I've been putting really well," she said.
The Sheehan definition of putting well means sinking from 20 and 30 feet, as she did on Nos. 14 and 15, as easily as tapping in a three-incher for par. She did a lot of that too.
She countered the bogey on 10 with an 18-footer for birdie on 11.
"It's not as though I've been super aggressive," she said. "I've just been plugging away, playing solid golf."
Sheehan's playing partners weren't as solid as the 1990 LPGA tour's dominant player. Colleen Walker, a consistent player who has finished in the top 10 in 16 LPGA events, started the second round Friday on fire. She birdied the first three holes to go six under for second place before play was suspended that night.
This morning Walker said she had blocked out the delays: "You can't control it so what can you do? It's going to be the same for everybody."
For Walker, though, this day became a nightmare. Over her last 12 holes, she lost six shots to par, ending just even par 10 behind Sheehan.
Nancy Lopez slipped off the leader board too, bogeys on five, 11 and 15 backing her up to even. Although she was crunching the ball off the tee, she had trouble chipping out of the wet rough.
Six players shared third place at 2-under 142: Rosie Jones, Shirley Furlong, Beth Daniel, Caroline Keggi, Meg Mallon and 1982 Open winner Janet Anderson. Four players were at 143, including defending champion King and three-time Open winner Hollis Stacy.
But Sheehan's pace could easily eclipse the 1986 Open record for 72 holes set by Liselotte Neumann at 7-under 277 in Baltimore.