Tom Watson completed a five-under-par 67 with a 30-foot birdie putt to take a one-shot lead yesterday after the first round of the $400,000 Western Open golf tournament in Oak Brook, Ill.

Buddy Gardner, who has yet to win in six seasons on the PGA Tour, was second with a 68 that, he said, was "by far the best I've ever played here. I've never broke par before, never made the cut before."

Watson, who is attempting to end the most frustrating slump of his career, said, "I'm playing well right now. This is the first time I've had this much confidence in a long time."

A group at 69 included Bruce Fleisher, John Adams and Greg Norman . . .

M.J. Smith, the "other" Marilyn Smith on the LPGA tour, shot a seven-under-par 65 for a two-stroke lead in the first round of the $250,000 Peter Jackson tournament in Montreal.

Sharon Barrett, Donna Caponi, Pat Bradley, Marlene Floyd-DeArman and Sue Ertl were tied for second place on the 6,033-yard, par-72 Beaconsfield course . . .

Arnold Palmer escaped disqualification by only 10 minutes because of a starting-time misunderstanding but managed an even-par 71 to trail leader Kel Nagle by three shots after the first round of the $150,000 Marlboro Classic seniors tournament in Marlboro, Mass. Don January, Gay Brewer, Peter Thompson and Roland Stafford were at 69 while leading money-winner Miller Barber headed a group of four at 70.