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Forsman grabs one-shot lead in Hickory Classic

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CONOVER, N.C. – Dan Forsman overcame back problems Friday to shoot a 7-under 65 and take a one-stroke lead over Fred Funk, David Frost and Larry Mize in the Greater Hickory Classic.

Forsman had eight birdies and a bogey in the opening round on Rock Barn Golf and Spa's Jones Course. He won the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii in January for his third Champions Tour title.

The 54-year-old player pulled a back muscle two weeks ago.

''I hadn't struck a ball until (Thursday),'' Forsman said. ''I've been able to spend a lot of time on the putting green, and that paid off. I knew I had to play sensible because I had my limitations ... but my momentum built up once I made some putts. It was fun. I enjoyed the heck out of it.''

Frost and Mize had bogey-free rounds, and Funk had four birdies and a closing eagle on the par-5 18th.

''I had a few opportunities early that I didn't make,'' said Funk, who won at The Woodlands in Texas in May for his seventh Champions Tour title and first in nearly two years. ''But it turned out to be a good day.''

Defending champion Mark Wiebe and Jay Don Blake shot 67. Wiebe had a hole-in-one on No. 3.

''That ace on No. 3 was just lucky,'' Wiebe said. ''I didn't even know it had gone in. I heard some people cheering on the green, but I thought that was because I had hit it close.''

Tom Lehman, 69 points behind leader Bernhard Langer in the Charles Schwab Cup standings, opened with a 68. Langer, the winner Sunday in the SAS Championship in Cary, had a 70.

Last week, Forsman had a second-round 80 and finished 78th at 10 over.

''I'll tell you how bad it was (last week) ... on the ninth hole, I had a spasm so bad I hit the deck,'' Forsman said. ''My son (Tommy) had to help me up so I could finish the round.''

After the final two regular-season events, the top 30 on the money list will advance to the Charles Schwab Cup Championship on Nov. 1-4 at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, Ariz. Forsman is 24th with $568,519.

''This couldn't have come at a worse time, because I'm trying to make the Schwab Cup,'' Forsman said. ''I've got a lot riding on that personally, so I'm grateful to be able to come out here and play as well as I did today.''