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STEWART ALONE IN FRONT AFTER 27 HOLES AT HAZELTINE

His name is Payne, but his problem is pain - in the back, in the neck, sometimes in his game.

He skipped the Masters because of a pinched nerve in his neck and wore a brace for 10 weeks, but midway through the second round of the U.S. Open today Payne Stewart's worries disappeared for awhile.The cure: three birdies that helped him take the lead alone at 7-under through 27 holes after an opening-round, 5-under-par 67.

Nolan Henke, who shared the first-round lead with Stewart, stayed at 5-under through 27 holes, one ahead of Scott Hoch and Craig Stadler.

Stewart squinted into the purple dusk and his yellow knickers and cap glowed like neon as he watched his final putt drop Thursday evening, climaxing 14 hours that saw moments of brilliant golf and sudden tragedy.

Thirty-three players were still on the Hazeltine National course when play was suspended at 9:08 p.m., ending one of the Open's longest and saddest days.

Unfinished rounds were completed today in a light rain just after play in the second round began. Brian Kamm put himself among the leaders at 69 and Peter Persons came in at 70.

Thursday will be remembered not for John Inman's hole-in-one, nor Henke's opening eagle, nor even 51-year-old Jack Nicklaus' late charge to a 70 that put him in a group behind Stewart and Henke, Tom Byrum at 68 and Mark Calcavecchia and Hoch at 69.

In Open history, Thursday will forever be the day lightning struck, killing a 27-year-old fan, seriously injuring another man and sending four others to the hospital with numbness in their legs.

Witnesses said the fatal bolt knocked the victims down "like bowling pins" as they stood under a willow tree.

They were talking and joking, trying to keep the wind and rain off of them and thinking they were safer under the willow than some taller trees nearby.

Everyone knew the danger. Lee Trevino, in mid-round when the lightning struck, was seriously injured along with partners Jerry Heard and Bobby Nichols by a lightning burst in 1975.

It was, simply, "the nightmare you hope you'll never have," said U.S. Golf Association executive director David Fay.

The downpour didn't last long, but play was held up for two hours, 41 minutes while paramedics worked on the injured and officials watched for the possibility of more lightning.

When play resumed in warm sunshine, it seemed as if a whole day had passed.

"It was almost like we weren't playing the U.S. Open. People were hurt and killed out there. So how can you be upset or concerned about a bad hole or bad score?" said Byrum.

"I wasn't quite so concerned with my golf game after such a tragedy," said Davis Love III, whose round of 70 tied him with Nicklaus and Fred Couples.

The scores improved in the afternoon as the wind died away and the softer fairways and greens showed more kindness. Of the 19 sub-par rounds, a dozen were shot after the storm.

"Playing after the storm today was an advantage," said Stewart, whose only problem was the fading light.

"When it gets that dark, it's hard to read the contours of the greens," he said. "The greens look almost flat. On the 18th, I had a 35-footer and I couldn't tell where it was going to go. But I got it six inches from the hole and tapped it in. I just wanted to get out of there."

Henke, a dimpled, long-haired 26-year-old in his third year on the tour, began his round with an eagle 2 on the first hole just before the lightning struck.

"I was thinking, `What's going on here?"' Henke said. "But I feel for the people who got hurt. I've got a few friends who have gotten hurt the same way."

Billy Andrade started as fast as he finished last Sunday when he won his second straight tournament. He birdied the third, fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth holes, but then fell apart with a triple-bogey 8 on the 11th and a quadruple-bogey 8 on the 16th.

"I was very tired," said Andrade, who slept through the thunderstorm in a van that took him and other golfers off the course. "I really didn't want to get out of bed this morning.

"I'm not a superman. It's going to happen sometime. When you start making mistakes, they magnify, especially in a tournament like this, the way this course is set up."

Former NCAA champion John Inman sank the first hole-in-one, knocking the ball in with a 4-iron on the par-3 fourth hole and holding the lead at 3-under through eighth holes when the storm hit. But he couldn't keep his concentration afterward and finished with a par 72.