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HAZELTINE HEX GROWS AS STAIRS FALL

A Hazeltine hex struck the U.S. Open again Friday when a bleachers staircase collapsed and injured 10 spectators.

The crash at the ninth green, just as Greg Norman was lining up a long putt, happened one day after one man was killed and five others hurt by lightning near the 11th tee.The stairway injuries were all minor, but the accident was yet another stroke of bad fortune at a course that first gained national attention 21 years ago for being reviled for its design.

Some players called the 1970 Open the worst ever, and redesigning the course for this tournament cost more than $1 million. But changing the course did nothing to change Hazeltine's luck.

Eight years ago, when the U.S. Senior Open was played here, golfer Robert Grant died of a heart attack.

This week, after three days of perfect weather during the practice rounds, the golf gods are wreaking havoc on the course.

Is Hazeltine jinxed?

"The course is not cursed. The town of Chaska is not cursed. The players are not cursed. The tournament is not cursed," USGA vice president Reg Murphy said Friday. "As far as I can tell, the spectators are enjoying themselves."

Eight of the spectators hurt when the stairway collapsed were treated on site for minor cuts and scrapes. The other two, Edina, Minn., lawyer Richard Abrams and his wife, Myrna, asked to go to the hospital, where they were treated and released.

The stairway was repaired. Hazeltine employees charged with watching the bleachers have been told that spectators aren't supposed to stand on stairways to watch the tournament.

"There were too many people on them," said Reed Mackenzie, 1991 U.S. Open general chairman and former Hazeltine president. "People are supposed to use the stairways to get into the bleachers and not to stand on them. There are signs posted telling people to line up on the bottom of the stairs. We have reminded our marshals to keep people from standing on the stairs."

"You know going into a large event there are going to be a certain number of incidents," Mackenzie said.