Dan Forsman fired a 7-under 65 on Friday to take the first-round lead of the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn Golf & Spa.
Fred Funk, David Frost and Larry Mize share second place at 6-under 66.
Defending champion Mark Wiebe, who defeated James Mason on the third playoff hole last year, and this year's Boeing Classic winner Jay Don Blake are tied in fifth at minus-5.
Forsman began on the 10th tee Friday and immediately chipped in for birdie on his first hole. After two consecutive pars, Forsman rattled off back-to-back birdies at 13 and 14.
Forsman stayed steady with a few pars, then closed his front side with an 8- foot birdie at the par-5 18th. He continued the momentum with a 15-foot birdie at the first and was 5-under for the championship.
Forsman parred two and three, then once again, rattled off two straight birdies, this time at four and five. He was 7-under and in the lead, but a 2- putt bogey from 15 feet at the sixth derailed his round a bit.
He rebounded with a 6-foot birdie at the par-4 eighth, and after a 4-foot par at his last, Forsman took the first-round lead by himself.
What made Forsman's round so remarkable was that he played the round in agony with a lower-back injury.
"It's been a long time since I've had anything like this happen to me and it couldn't have come at a worse time since I'm trying to get into the Charles Schwab Cup Championship field," said Forsman. "I went out today, knowing my limitations, and I putted really well which kept my momentum going."
Tom Lehman, Scott Simpson, Bruce Vaughan, Peter Senior, John Cook, Mike Reid and Tom Kite are knotted in seventh place after each had a 4-under 68 on Friday.
Bernhard Langer, who won last week's SAS Championship and is the leading money winner this year on the Champions Tour, carded a 2-under 70 on Friday and is tied for 22nd.
NOTES: Forsman owns three Champions Tour victories, including this year's season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai...His last first- round lead on the Champions Tour came at this year's Tradition, but he didn't break 70 in the last three rounds and shared 11th.