What a difference 24 hours can make.

By 10 a.m. Thursday, the cold rain over Blaine was so intense 3M Championship tournament officials decided to pull players and amateurs off the course. Friday? Nothing but puffy clouds and warm sunshine as the 3M Championship kicked off Year 25.

Golf fans responded, showing up in waves to watch the action. One hole marshal believed it was the biggest Friday crowd he's seen in 17 years of volunteering.

"This is what it looked like like when Arnie [Palmer] and all the other Greats of Golf show up," on Saturdays, he said. "We never get a Friday crowd like this."

Under the watchful eye of the PGA Tour Champions Schwab Cup trophy, Bart Bryant hit the first shot at 11:10 a.m. and the day's play was off and running.

Fans gravitated to the driving range and the putting green to get a close up look at the players warning up for their rounds.

Current money list leader and two-time 3M Championship winner Bernhard Langer drew big crowds.

Steve Stricker was another popular draw. He and fellow Wisconsinite Jerry Kelly - friends since their junior golf days around Madison - shared a warm embrace on the practice putting green.

Tom Lehman, also a fan-favorite, drew big cheers. He is playing this week with daughter Holly as his caddie, carrying a maroon and gold University of Minnesota golf bag.

The day's final group teed off at 1:10 p.m. The only news so far from Day 1 is Tommy Armour III was forced to withdraw about two hours before his tee time due to a bad back. First alternate Steve Pate was still on site and was able to make the 11:40 a.m. spot.

The 3M Championship also announced pairings and autograph times for Saturday's Greats of Golf exhibition.

Saturday's teams (and tee times) are:

Team Ryder Cup            Hale Irwin

Capt. Tony Jacklin          Dave Stockton

12:50PM                         Tom Weiskopf

Team Major Fun             Fuzzy Zoeller

Capt. Andy North            David Graham

1:00PM                           Ben Crenshaw

Team LPGA                    Nancy Lopez

Capt. Bill Rogers             Pat Bradley

1:10PM                           Michelle McGann

Team Greatest Ever         Jack Nicklaus

Capt. Jerry Pate               Gary Player

1:20PM                           Lee Trevino

Autograph times in the expo tent are:
10:00AM                 Hale Irwin, Dave Stockton, Tom Weiskopf and Tony Jacklin
10:30AM                 Fuzzy Zoeller, David Graham and Bill Rogers
11:00AM                 Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino and Jerry Pate
11:30AM                 Nancy Lopez, Pat Bradley, Michele McGann and Bill Rogers
12:00PM                Chi Chi Rodriguez, Charles Coody, Al Geiberger,  and Jim Colbert  

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