DULUTH, GA., JULY 15 -- Perhaps the demons were still loose in Patty Sheehan's head. Perhaps the painful memories of losing the 1989 U.S. Women's Open after going into the final round tied with Betsy King drifted back and reminded her that in golf anything can happen.

Anything did happen today. Sheehan, starting the day 10 under par and six shots ahead of her nearest pursuer after 36 holes, lost the 1990 Women's Open to defending champion King.

In a marathon 36-hole windup dictated by the U.S. Golf Association to make up for the interminable weather delays of the first three days on Atlanta Athletic Club's Riverside course, Sheehan ran out of gas.

Coming off a record 66-68 start, she shot 75 and 76 for a 72-hole total of 285. King, nine behind with 72-71 the first two rounds and 11 back at one stage this morning, clipped off rounds of 71 and 70 for a 4-under-par total of 284.

Still five behind with 18 to play, even King said she didn't think she had a shot at the title. "I didn't think 70 would do too much," she said.

Starting the third round, Sheehan quickly birdied Nos. 3 and 4 to go to 12 under, eight shots ahead of playing partner Jane Geddes, who started the day at four under.

Geddes, who had gotten a day of rest during Saturday's completion of the second round after she finished her second 18 in a marathon 11 hours Friday because of rain delays, didn't have it today. She took 79 in the third round and ended deep in the pack with 73 -- 292.

A bogey on the difficult par-4 No. 7 set Sheehan back to 11 under, still a comfortable eight strokes ahead of the field. She finished the front at 34, two strokes under par.

But the back nine fought back.

Sheehan took a bogey on 13, dropping another on 15.

And then came 18. Sheehan's 3-iron approach shot on the 523-yard hole came up two feet short and splashed into the pond guarding the green. After taking a drop she chipped 15 feet past the hole and missed the return putt. The double-bogey 7 dropped her to seven under for the tournament. The consistent King, though, was still five strokes off Sheehan's pace.

"Things happen and they kind of snowballed," said Sheehan. And so they did. Six bogeys punctuated her final round, with a lone birdie on 15 to match King -- who already had passed her -- at four under.

"Obviously I'm pretty surprised," said King. "It had to be a tough day for her. I was just fortunate to be the one that was there."

Little-known Mary Murphy was almost there. After a morning 69, she finished fifth with a 1-under-par 287. Dottie Mochrie, with a final 66, and Danielle Ammaccapane tied for third at 286.

King said she first noticed she was ahead when she glanced at the leader board on the 12th hole. At that point she was five under for the tournament after a birdie at 11. Sheehan, playing three groups back, had dropped to three under with the bogey on No. 9.

The 34-year-old champion completed the round with seven straight pars. Sheehan regrouped with birdies on 14 and 15 to share the lead.

The final blow came on the 180-yard 17th. Sheehan pushed her tee shot into the bunker. Coming out the ball flew past the pin and left her a 25-footer for par. She missed.

On 18 Sheehan pushed her approach shot 15 feet wide. The birdie putt, which could have forced the championship into a Monday playoff, rolled toward the cup, made a passing glance at it and continued three feet. She had lost.

"I figured if I played like this the first two days I'd have missed the cut, so I can look at this positively," Sheehan said. And, tearfully: "I just didn't feel well today and I tried to overcome it with my mind."

But in that mind those demons must still lie, waiting to remind her that anything can happen. And King was there to help make it happen.

"They're not going to know what happened down the road," King said. "They're just going to see the winner's name and not know what went on."