Hale Irwin, mired in the worst slump of his long golf career, came out of it with a 4-under-par 68 yesterday and took a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Canadian Open in Oakville, Ontario.

"It was time for me to relax and play the kind of golf I'm capable of," said Irwin, who ranks a lowly 129th on the 1986 PGA Tour money list.

A stroke off the pace were Andy Bean, a two-time winner already this season, Brad Fabel, Clarence Rose, Mike Donald, Denny Hepler and Dan Halldorson, seeking to become the first Canadian to win this title since 1954.

"I'm trying to make golf fun again. It has not been a lot of fun all this year," said Irwin, who once went almost four seasons without missing a cut. This year, he has missed in seven of 15 starts.

"It's just a little thing here, a little thing there," said the two-time U.S. Open champion, "and I've turned a 68 into a 72 or 73 and all of a sudden I'm struggling."

But it was no struggle at all for Irwin on a sunny and breezy day in this Toronto suburb. He missed only two fairways and three greens at the Glen Abbey Golf Club.

Bob Tway, who leads the PGA Tour with three victories this season, had a 70. Greg Norman, who has been on such a rampage in recent months, had 72. Defending champion Curtis Strange was at 73. Jack Nicklaus, seven times a runner-up in this event, and Lee Trevino, a three-time Canadian Open winner, each took 74.

LPGA: Debbie Massey, winless on the tour since 1979, shot 5-under-par 67 to lead the $350,000 Mayflower Classic after the first of four rounds at the Country Club of Indianapolis. Jan Stephenson and Sandra Palmer had 68s.

A four-way tie for third at 69 included Margaret Ward, who has missed the cut 10 times this year and never finished higher than a tie for 29th in three years on the tour; defending champion Alice Miller, Jane Crafter and Patty Sheehan.

Massey was using a repaired driver that broke June 15 in her last tournament at Hershey, Pa.

"I was leading by one shot and I was on the 18th tee and the epoxy glue gave way in the heat and the grip turned about 90 degrees," she said. "My shot went dead right in the trees. I ended up making bogey on the hole and losing in a playoff."

USGA Senior: Dale Douglass shot 5-under-par 66 for a two-stroke lead and Lee Elder had second place alone after the first round of the 72-hole U.S. Senior Open at Scioto Country Club outside Columbus, Ohio.

Douglass, at 50 a PGA Senior Tour rookie, has won two events and is third on the earnings list.