Howard Twitty had six birdies on the back nine yesterday en route to an 8-under-par 62 and the first-round lead of the Southern Open in Columbus, Ga.

Twitty, a 16-year PGA Tour veteran who has been bothered by back problems for about three years, leads Frank Conner and hometown favorite Larry Mize by two strokes on the 6,775-yard Green Island Country Club course.

At 65 are Mike Donald, Dillard Pruitt, Dan Halldorson and Jim Nelford. Sam Randolph and Mark Lye are at 66. Davis Love III and Bob Tway are in a large group at 67, one ahead of defending champion Ted Schulz.

Twitty's 62 is one shot off the tournament record reached three times, last by Dave Barr in 1988.

Twitty, who has won twice on tour -- but not since 1980 -- had nine birdies and a bogey amid perfect playing conditions.

His 29 on the back nine included a birdie putt of 45 feet. The other birdies ranged from five to 10 feet.

"It was fun. You have to make a lot of putts for that to happen," Twitty said. "I had a lot of opportunities for birdies and fortunately I made most of them."

Twitty, who took five months off late last year to rest a stiff back, made the cut only three times in his first 14 tournaments this year.

"My back was hurt for quite a while, but this summer it has been a lot better," he said. "I've seen a steady improvement since about early May and it's been 100 percent the last month or so."

Grand Prix of Europe: Ian Woosnam and Colin Montgomerie shot 6-under 65s to share a one-shot lead after one round in Chepstow, Wales.