Curt Byrum and Brian Henninger, taking advantage of early tee times, both had seven-birdie rounds to set the pace in the first round of the Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic in Madison, Miss.

Byrum, playing on his second PGA Tour event this year, was bogey free for an opening 65. Henninger, the 1994 Deposit Guaranty champion, was among four players who shot 66s in the morning round."Everybody is going to be able to hit fairways and greens because it's soft. The challenge will be putting where greens will get bumpy," Henninger said.

After six days of rain prior to the first round at Annandale Golf Club, the lift, clean and place rule was in effect for shots in the fairway, and the greens were soft.

The soft greens allowed pros to play target golf with approach shots. But the softness also made the greens prone to spike and heel marks, which made putting more difficult as the round progressed.

"I'm looking forward to playing in the morning, when the breeze should be laying down and the greens should be smooth, but soft," Jay Delsing said after an opening-round 67. "The back nine was worse than the front nine."

Delsing and two other players - Allen Doyle and Jonathan Kaye - paced the afternoon round, when conditions were tougher because of more spike marks on the greens and 15-20 mph wind gusts.

That trio will be among those getting the first shot today at the Jack Nicklaus-designed, 7,157-yard course.

There were 58 players who broke par in the first round. Of those, 32 played the morning round, including defending champion Billy Ray Brown at 2-under 70.

Tied with Henninger a stroke back of the lead at 66 were Paul Goydos, Doug Tewell and Chris Smith. Franklin Langham had an early 67.

LPGA BIG APPLE: Penny Hammel had struggled with her putting all season. A friendly contest seems to have changed things quite a bit.

Hammel and Leigh Ann Mills had a putting contest Wednesday, as Hammel put it, "just playing around."

During the game on the green, Mills gave Hammel a small tip that turned things around Thursday in the opening round of the JAL Big Apple Classic. Hammel had six birdies and an eagle in a 7-under-par 64 that gave her a 3-stroke lead over five others.

Two of the birdie putts were from 30 and 25 feet, and the eagle putt on the par-5 15th was from 45 feet.