Golf became an afterthought Thursday when death scarred the opening round of the 91st U.S. Open.
"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 a bad score," Tom Byrum said.
Byrum came back from a lengthy storm delay, birdied two of his last three holes and took the early lead with a 68, a secondary consideration to the intense storm that struck the course.
"The nightmare you hope you'll never have," U.S. Golf Assn. Executive Director David Fay said in describing the brief, violent storm that lashed 40,000 confused, exposed spectators, killing one and injuring five.
The six casualties were struck by lightning as they huddled beneath a solitary willow tree near the 11th tee at the Hazeltine National Golf Club.
"I wasn't quite so concerned with my golf game after such a tragedy," said Davis Love III, one of three early finishers in at 70.
"It's a shame," he said. "With 40,000 people out there, there just wasn't any place for them all to go."
The storm caused a 2 hour, 41 minute delay and made it impossible to complete the first round before darkness.
Those players left on the course, the USGA said, would return at 7 a.m. CDT Friday to complete play, with the second round to be held as scheduled.
Only a handful of spectators remained on the course when Byrum went into the lead late in the day with birdies on the 16th and 18th holes.
Byrum, whose only victory in a six-season career came in the 1989 Kemper Open, dropped a 20-foot putt on a green slowed by the heavy rains earlier in the day, then capped it with a 10-footer on the final hole.
With about half the field still out, Love, Australian Craig Parry, former U.S. Open winner Scott Simpson, Jim Gallagher and Keith Clearwater trailed Byrum by two strokes.
They were followed by Irwin, Jodie Mudd, Mike Harwood, Fulton Allem and leading money-winner Corey Pavin at 71.
Billy Andrade, winner of the last two tour events, blew to a 76 that included a pair of eights and seven birdies.
An unplayable lie in the tangled roots of a tree led to one of the big numbers, and a shot into a swampy marsh set up the other.
Nick Faldo of England shot 72, Tom Watson 73 and Lanny Wadkins 76.
The USGA said the spectator was the first to be killed by lightning in any of its events. The PGA Tour said it had no record of the lightning deaths of spectators in any of its tournaments.