Tom Purtzer, Larry Nelson and a scraggy, transplanted tree-all three of similar fame and temperament-spruced up the second round of the U.S. Open today with their ecapades.

Felled, however, was pretournament favorite Tom Watson, who missed the cut of 151 by one shot.

The wildly-erratic Purtzer staggered off the belligerent Inverness Club golf course, stunned to discover that he was leading the open, later to be tied by Nelson at three-under-par 139.

Better yet, only Hale Irwin at 142 and Bill Rogers at 143 were within six shots of their pace.

"I can't even remember what happened out there," said Purtzer, whose 69 was bettered only by the 68s of Irwin and Nelson. "I'm trying to forget most of my shots."

"When I woke up this morning and saw that hot wind blowing, I figured nobody could break par," said the stoic Nelson. "I don't really know how Tom and Hale and I shot those scores."

Among the day's legion of weepers and wailers in addition to Watson, was Jack Nicklaus. Both had 77s, with Nicklaus barely running at 151.

While the mighty gnashed their teeth, a few players were having fun-tweaking the nose of the USGA which created this roulette-wheel of a course where the greens get harder and the rough higher and healthier every day.

The USGA thought it had eradicated the Lon Hinkle Shortcut-playing the par-5 eighth hole by driving into the 17th fairway-by transplanting overnight a 25-foot-high spruce tree next to the eighth tee.

"Kind of a sickly looking tree," said the impish Hinkle. "As soon as I saw it, I said, 'That doesn't look nearly big enough . . . about two more (trees) would take car of it.'"

Hinkle drove around the tree and made birdie.

"That tree looked like it had been there awhile to me," said Hinkle. "Nah, the USGA hasn't said anything to me . . . but then they never said anything to me before."

If Hinkle broke the rules of etiquette, then Purtzer broke every imaginable rule of correct golf for the second day in a row.

It made no difference. His wayward shots put him in no more difficulty than those of more accurate golfers who were merely missing their targets by a few feet. Everybody in this Open gets to visit the jungle.

On Thursday, Purtzer took off his shoes to play out of a pond, hit left handed from under a bush and pitched off a pine cone.

"Today was much worse," said the slim, 6-foot pro from Phoenix who was 55th on last year's money list.

Purtzer was in the rough seven times and hit three bunkers. He had to chip underneath a tree once, then had to pitch laterally over another to get back to the fairway. He also missed an 18-inch putt.

With all this adversity, Purtzer one-putted nine times: four times for birdies, four times to save par and once to save bogey.As a bonus, he chipped in once for a birdie.

Naturally, in such a bizarre round, Purtzer narrowly missed a hole in one at the 12th hole when his 167-yard nine-iron shot rolled over the lip of the cup and stopped 10 inches past.

Purtzer concluded the day with two of the wildest shots imaginable. His drive at the 354-yard 18th was "the worst looking thing I have ever seen . . .I did't think you could shank a wood . . . Some guy was diving for cover so fast that the ball came to rest on his (discarded) shirt. I couldn't believe a professional could hit a shot that awful."

A free drop from the shirt hardly helped-the ball rolled into a hole.

Purtzer, who has been gambling like a maniac-making 13 birdies in his last 30 holes since starting the tournament five over after five cautious holes-then lofted a seemingly impossible 135-yard wedge to within 18 inches of the hole for a bird.

That titanic wedge cleared a trap by perhaps a yard, somwhow bit on what looked like a downslope, then crept toward the hole down a sidehill undulation-worming its way 15 feet toward the cup at a tantalizing revolution-per-second pace.

"I could have shot 76 today," said Purtzer, "but then, I usually find a way to turn a round that should be a 69 into a 76, so I don't feel too bad.

"I was completely drained yesterday, but today's round took even more out of me because I had to fight constantly. I couldn't sleep last night, but I'll probably rest pretty hard tonight.

"I can't say I feel confident . . . you can't hit the ball this bad four days in a row and expect to win the U.S. Open, but I can't say I feel bad either. I'm a good enough player to lead the Open, it's just that I never figured to do it this way.

"I need some help with my swing, so I'm going to go ask a friend of mine to look me over."

Who is the wise teacher who will help the Open leader?

"A caddie I know," said Purtzer.

It would be hard to imagine a more phlegmatic, utterly calm, almost humble man than Purtzer, but Nelson is.

Both wear "Amana" hats-the firm that seems to seek the endorsement of those pros who most resemble something that was left overnight ina microwave oven.

"My problem used to be that I was so relaxed on the course that I was almost limp. I had no energy at all," said Nelson, who, in almost complete anonymity, has won $134,964 this year to rank sixth on the cash list.

Today Nelson saved par five times with one-putt efforts and collected five birdies-beating Purtzer in the one-putt sweepstakes with 10. Both used but 26 putts.

"Actually, I can't seem to remember a lot of the holes," said Nelson. "I musta parred 14, I guess. Did I birdie 16? I'll be with ya'll in a minute. I need a scoreboard . . . after a while, all those holes on the vack look the same."

Like Purtzer, Nelson has driven the ball wildly-but who cares? Even good drives kick into the rough here. The extreme mistakes actually get a break since they reach the rough outside the ropes where the crowds have trampled the grass.

"I told my wife that the way I was hittin' it, I'd be home on Saturday," said Nelson, who never picked up a golf club until the age of 21, 10 years ago. "Now I'm more optimistic. Oh, yeah . . . I'm real excited," he continued, giving a tiny smile.

The man with the Cheshire cat grin is Irwin, lurking in ideal striking position after his 74-68-142.

"I'm in the chase, but I don't have a lead to protect. That's perfect," said Irwin, who may be the best man alive at getting up and down from jail as he has done a dozen times in two rounds. "This reminds me of the progression when I won at Winged Foot . . . sure, I've thought about it.

"It's hard to judge how you're playing on this course. You hit a shot 183 yards and it's dead to the stick. Hit it 184 yards and it hits a downslope and bounces off the back."

Washington-area golfers Ken Leber and Randy O'Linger, both at 158, and Larry Rentz, at 163, missed the cut while Lee Elder stayed alive with a 72-146.