Day 1 filled with smiles, autographs and lots of practice at PGA
Irishman Graeme McDowell signs autographs for fans along the 17th green Monday. (Source: Alex Kreitman / Live 5 News)
Sergio Garcia smiles after sinking a putt on the par-5 16th hole. (Source: Alex Kreitman / Live 5 News)
KIAWAH ISLAND, SC (WCSC) -
After years of planning and lots of anticipation, the 94th PGA Championship got underway Monday. The world's best players began practicing on The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island's Golf Resort.
The first day of practice was a great chance for fans to get up close and personal with their favorite players. Tiger Woods got the week started with an early morning practice round. He was finished before most fans arrived for the day.
Fans took pictures, lined up for autographs and enjoyed smaller crowds during the practice round. Until Thursday's first round, fans are allowed to use mobile phones and cameras to take pictures, but starting Thursday no photographs will be allowed. Video is prohibited throughout the week.
In the afternoon, Sergio Garcia drew some excitement from the crowd on No. 16. Garcia landed his approach shot on the inviting par-5 down below the green on the left side. From there, he chipped the ball up to within five feet, drawing applause. He sank the putt, and three more just like it, before switching sides and making two more.
While sporting a big smile, Garcia signed one of the balls and gave it to his caddie, who then threw it into the crowd. Garcia signed several more autographs during his walk to the 17th tee box, which overlooks the ocean.
Graeme McDowell signed dozens of autographs and chatted with fans along the signature 17th green. As he approached his two tee shots, common for a practice round, fans cheered "nice shot."
On the "nice shot," McDowell landed a 3-iron about 20 feet from the hole. He made par with that tee shot. As he walked off the hole, satisfied with his par, a young girl yelled, "Be careful around the crocodiles!"
In the distance, well out of McDowell's reach, swam a large alligator, which is a common site on Kiawah Island. McDowell laughed and thanked the girl for warning him.
"It's like the Discovery channel out here," McDowell said to the crowd.
The 17th hole is expected to be one of the most challenging during the PGA Championship because it is guarded by water in the front and has a strong wind coming off the Atlantic Ocean.
On the 18th hole, players seemed to have difficulty finding the green in regulation. Player after player found themselves short or on the left side during Monday's practice round. If that carries over into the tournament, it will likely create an exciting championship.
The highlight of the day may have come off the course. Masters champion Bubba Watson tweeted a video of Rickie Fowler jumping off the balcony of an ocean front home into a pool. Minutes later Fowler apparently jumped back into the pool, but this time from the top of the pool.