In the past, the people running the United States Golf and Lawncare Association have done much to alter the way the Open courses play.

They have trimmed the greens to fit the latest interstate requirements. They have dusted the rough with chemicals to induce a couple of quick inches. They have dropped trees in the middle of the fairway during the dead of the night.

Today, for the second round of the U.S. Women's Open, nothing so dastardly was done to the Brooklawn Country Club. Not that it was necessary, although a record eight players had finished the first day at par or better. "The man upstairs took care of everything," Sandra Palmer said.

Meaning, it was 85 degrees when Palmer began playing at 8:10 a.m. And 92 for Hollis Stacy, the Open's two-time defending champion, early in the afternoon. And 95 for Jerilyn Britz, one of Thursday's coleaders, a little later. It would reach 98.

"It was the hottest I can ever remember playing in," said Susie Berning, a three-time Open winner. "I hate to say this but if this continues, whoever can cope with the heat will win it."

Britz was trying to get the memories of lost leads out of her head. Last month, she led going into the final round of the LGPA championship. Last week, Britz led going into the final two holes of a tournament in Indiana.

Britz hoped the two-shot lead she took today will not be gone by the time the ABC-TV cameras click on Saturday at 4 p.m. "I'm feeling a lot more confident in my ability to hold up," she said. "I might not do so but I'm feeling better."

Britz's second 70 for 140 gave her the lead by two strokes over Debbie Massey, a first-round coleader with Britz, who shot 72 today; Sally Little, 71-71, and Palmer, whose 69 was the third best round of the day.

Judy Rankin, who never has won an open in 17 years on tour, recovered from a 76 Thursday with 68 today. Rankin has been bothered by an allergy and when she came off the course she was dizzy, her eyes were red and her nose was stuffed.

"I think I'm going to die," she said, slowly climbing the stairs in the clubhouse. "It could be that the greatest player in the world couldn't play in this heat."

Nancy Lopez, she of the smiling face and the fat bank account, fell off a place on which she seems to have a permanent spot. "Nancy's not on the leader board," one player said when Lopez was struggling at six over par. "Amazing."

However, Lopez got back on the board and into contention, at four over, with birdies on 14 and 15 for her second 73. CAPTION: Picture, Leader Jerilyn Britz watches putt that gave her birdie 3 on the ninth green in U.S. Women's Open. AP