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Looking for a major return

It's been a long time between cartwheels for Patty Sheehan.

When Sheehan, an LPGA Hall of Famer, finally won her first Nabisco Dinah Shore title a year ago, she reeled off a gleeful cartwheel on the 18th green.

"I haven't done a cartwheel since," said the frustrated Sheehan, who didn't win again in 1996 and is off to a slow start this year.

She ranks 58th on the 1997 money list, with her best finish a tie for 18th. Last week, she shot 72-76 to miss the cut at Phoenix. She's been busy trying to patch up her swing.

"I'm working on a good shoulder turn, getting off my right side, finishing high, getting my ball position back. Let's see, is there anything else?" said the 40-year-old Sheehan, who has 35 career victories.

"I'm just not very comfortable right now."

Heading into the Dinah Shore last year, Sheehan had finished in the top 10 the previous two weeks, and was determined to add her first Dinah Shore title to her list of five major championships.

She accomplished her goal by making a 10-foot putt on the final hole to finish one shot in front of three of the LPGA's top players _ Annika Sorenstam, Kelly Robbins and Meg Mallon.

"I was playing well last year and I had a lot of confidence," Sheehan said. "I was putting well, chipping well, doing everything well."

That, of course, was last year, and the fact that Sheehan has been struggling makes her an unlikely candidate to become the second player ever to win the Dinah Shore two years running. Sandra Post was the champion in 1978 and 1979.

On the other hand, Sheehan doesn't believe she'll feel the pressure so much since she finally won the tournament.

"I think I will enjoy it more this year. In years past, I was so focused on playing and winning this, it was so important to me, that I don't think I was able to appreciate the fans," she said. "I'd like to defend the Dinah, but I'm also looking forward to enjoying the gallery."

Among those who will try to deny Sheehan two straight Dinah Shore titles are Laura Davies. Davies, like Sheehan last year, has set her sights on the Dinah Shore because she's never won the event considered the women's equivalent of the Masters.

"I'd like to win just because it's the Dinah Shore. It's Dinah. I had a chance to play with her twice in pro-ams," Davies said. "And it's a major championship and a great venue."