Wednesday's practice round at the PGA Championship could have easily been a wash, but dedicated grounds crews were able to salvage the day and give the patient fans a treat on the final day of practice.
Fans that stuck around through the rain were rewarded with sunshine and last-minute preparations by some of golf's best. By 5 p.m., there were just a few thousand fans left on the course, scattered across the 7,676 yards on The Ocean Course.
Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Graeme McDowell and Jim Furyk were among the headliners playing the back 9 late in the afternoon. Masters champion Bubba Watson and Ricky Fowler made a surprise appearance just before 4 p.m. for 9 holes.
The pair came riding onto the front 9 in a golf cart, skipping the first two holes, which were shut down for maintenance because of the rain. The two teed off on No. 3 and were instantly greeted by dozens of fans sprinting backwards to catch a glimpse.
Those fans got a private display of professional golf for a few hours. On No. 4, Fowler hit driver to within 10 yards of a water hazard, one of the dangers of hitting driver on the 458-yard par 4. Watson played safe, hitting iron instead. His choice disappointed a few fans who begged him to let one rip and hit driver.
Fowler drilled his second shot right at the flag stick, which took one hop before the hole and rolled toward the back of the green. The two spent about 20 minutes chipping in and out of the sand on No. 4.
On No. 5, both players had difficulty landing a shot close to cup on the 188-yeard par 3. Fowler found the fringe on the back left of the green and Watson's shot stayed on the green, but left him with a long uphill putt. His birdie attempt just missed, but he tapped in for par. Both players again took to the sand for more practice.
One fan yelled to Fowler, "You don't need to practice in the sand." Fowler replied rather confidently, "No, you're right, I don't." Just in case, he finished out his sand shots.
The 94th PGA Championship begins Thursday morning.
BRADLEY IN ALL HIS RED SOX SPLENDOR: As a native of Vermont, Keegan Bradley's loyalties to New England's professional sports teams run deep. So it isn't surprising that Bradley presented the 17 PGA Champions in attendance at the Champions' Dinner Tuesday night with personalized Boston Red Sox jerseys. In addition to having the Champions' name inscribed on the back, the number on the jersey corresponded with the year each man won his respective Championship. In the case of Vijay Singh, Dave Stockton and Tiger Woods, all of whom own multiple PGA Championships, each was given the number of the year in which they won their last Championship.
In continuing a tradition of the defending champion hosting the Champions' Dinner, Bradley treated each Champion to a delicious menu with a distinctive New England twist -- "Surf and Turf," which featured a petite filet and Maine lobster. The meal also included corn on the cob and baked potato.
Ice cream sundaes were served for dessert.
99 OF 100 A RECORD: Even with the withdrawal of Ben Crane Wednesday because of a back injury, the current PGA Championship field of 99 of the top 100 world-ranked players is the strongest in PGA Championship history since the Official World Golf Rankings began in 1986. The PGA Championship featured 98 of the top 100 players in 2002 and 2011.
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