Their Friendly Rivalry Is Intensified : U.S. Women's Open: Best buddies Sheehan and Inkster are tied for the lead, three strokes ahead, heading into final round.

From Associated Press

Patty Sheehan, tied for the lead going into the final round of the U.S. Women's Open, has set herself a difficult task.

"I'm going to try to keep emotions out of it," Sheehan said Saturday after a round of 70 put her in a tie for the top spot with Juli Inkster, who shot a 72, after 54 holes.

"It's going to be tough," Sheehan said. "The game of golf plays havoc with my brain."

It's also difficult in that her principal opponent is Inkster, her closest friend on the LPGA tour. It was Inkster who offered housing to Sheehan when she was unable to get home during the San Francisco earthquake.

Then there is Sheehan's record in this event: three chances at the title, no victories.

The most recent was the most painful, in 1990 at the Atlanta Athletic Club. She had a 10-shot lead at one point during the third round and led by four going into the final day.

"I know nothing can be more disappointing than that," she said, "so in a way it's a benefit to me.

"It will be easier playing from a tie than from nine in front," she said after completing three rounds over the Oakmont Country Club course, still wet from two days of storms, at 211, two under par.

Inkster, a winner last week, had 16 pars, one birdie and one bogey.

They were the only two under par after three rounds. Three strokes separate them from the rest of the field.

"You don't get too many shots at the U.S. Open," Inkster said. "It's a great opportunity."

For Sheehan, it's a fourth opportunity.

"I've given myself another chance," she said. "I'm happy about that. I never doubted that I would give myself another chance. I'm a battler.

"And I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

Dawn Coe, Donna Andrews and Canadian Gail Graham shared third at 214. Coe and Andrews shot 72 and Graham had a 71.

Michelle McGann had a 70 and was tied at 215 with second-round leader Pamela Wright of Scotland, who had a 76.

Inkster and Sheehan were among the 42 players who had to return Saturday morning to complete play in the storm-delayed second round. Inkster moved to within one of the lead with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole, her first stroke of the day, and Sheehan parred four holes to finish two behind.

Playing together in the final threesome with Wright for the third round, Sheehan and Inkster quickly moved ahead when Wright had putting problems.

Sheehan was leading by one over Inkster when she missed the green and bogeyed the 12th. Inkster made a 15-foot putt on the same hole and led alone.

On the next hole, however, Sheehan made a 25-foot putt that had a six-foot break for a birdie and they were tied.

"We both want to win it real bad," Inkster said. "But win or lose, we'll come out of it still friends."

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