Sheehan was probably in the best position to judge whether youth, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, was being wasted on the tour's youngsters. Paired with Sorenstam and Webb on Thursday and Friday, Sheehan came away satisfied that her rivals' smoky lenses did not conceal flinty eyes. "Yes, they may be quiet, but they're very, very nice people," Sheehan said. She even counseled Sorenstam, who was criticized for skipping the LPGA's season-opening Tournament of Champions, to follow her instincts instead of the herd. "The media and the public need to be more forgiving of her," Sheehan said of the Swedish star, whose 67 last week tied her for the opening-round lead. "She'll come out of her shell. You just have to wait and watch."
Sure enough, on Sunday Sorenstam provided glimpses of the charmer she may yet become. She let her sunglasses ride atop her cap. She pumped her arm and smiled to punctuate a lead-seizing 20-foot birdie putt on number 16. And when her 6-footer for par on 18 rimmed out, she managed a stoic smile and hugged the equally frustrated Mallon, who had just two-putted from eight feet.
Sheehan, of course, is the master of the stoic smile—not to mention the gracious smile, the forgiving smile, the smile of relief and the ecstatic smile, all of which she got to use on Sunday. Playing in the final group with Burton and Nausc, Sheehan birdied the first hole, thrilling her vocal fans—"Go, Patty!"—and starting dominos falling. She would make only seven pars for the round, and later she would insist that she had enjoyed herself thoroughly.
But then this is the woman who cried uncontrollably after blowing a nine-shot lead in the 1990 U.S. Women's Open and bounced back with two more tour wins before the season ended; the woman who in '92 birdied the final two holes at Oakmont, after a rain delay, to force the playoff she won against Juli Inkster; the woman who has a 14-year-old carton of misprinted balloons proudly advertising the PATTY SHEEHAN FUN CLUB; the woman who lost everything in the '89 San Francisco earthquake and has won nearly everything since. At home in Reno she has a ceramic jar filled with good-luck coins that she has picked up off floors and pavements. Before Sunday's round, Sheehan's caddie, Carl Laib, showed her a battered penny he had found the night before—face up, as required by Sheehan—at a Palm Springs joint called The Truck Stop. Laib carried the penny in his pocket all day.
There was, as well, a little magic in the clubs Laib lugged around the desert. Early in the week Sheehan had the graphite shafts pulled out of her Big Bertha irons—her sixth shaft change of the year—and went back to steel, with which she had won 34 LPGA events. "I couldn't feel what I was doing with graphite," she said. "I needed a bit more vibration in the shaft." But it was steel's vibration that had given her career-threatening tendinitis in both elbows. Her dilemma: Graphite relieves the tendinitis, but steel relieves the pain of slipping down the money list. (She finished 13th and 14th the last two years, after 12 years in the top 10.)
So, yes, there was a little luck, superstition, technology and just plain silliness involved in Sheehan's Dinah Shore win. She walked across the bridge to the 18th green not knowing if she was going to laugh or bawl before she walked back. Her third shot, a wicked pull from a fairway bunker 116 yards out, had left her with what she called "a monster putt": a hundred feet, according to the TV folks, a few feet more if you distrust round numbers. Later Sheehan would say, "I never dreamed I would have to do that to win the Dinah Shore"—that is, two-putt the horizon.
She could have squeezed in a daydream in the time it took her lag putt to mosey up toward the hole. Sheehan judged her second putt to be about 10 feet—it looked more like eight—but the three ladies in waiting never allowed themselves to hope that she would miss. As Sheehan settled over the ball, Sorenstam whispered to her fiancé, "It's going in."
Was it ever. Sheehan wheeled around to celebrate when the ball was still a foot from the cup. By the time it found the heart, Sheehan's fans were screaming and bouncing like excited children. "What an awesome two-putt," said Robbins. "But if anybody's going to do it, Patty's going to do it."
Three hours later, after icing her right elbow and downing a couple of cranberry-juice-and-vodka cocktails, Sheehan slipped into the winner's white bathrobe and walked back down to the 18th green. With the moon out and the last light of day coating the San Jacinto Mountains with pink frosting, she stepped off her monster putt. The first estimate was 90 feet. Her second hike made it 102 feet. Then she autographed champagne glasses for a few friends and well-wishers—the bubbly signing the bubbly, so to speak.
"All right, I'll give you an exclusive," she told a lingering journalist. "My goal is to repeat."