Watching the final round of a major professional golf tournament and staying abreast of the leaders is about as easy as competing in all 10 events of the decathlon simultaneously.
It's the curious nature of this nomadic game that, instead of a one-on-one duel of machismo, the final showdown is a refracted affair where the major adversaries can be putting a half-mile apart.
"Exactly why it's so much fun -- you get to enjoy a variety of different environments," said Mark Montefusco of Gaithersburg, standing at the third tee with an eye on the second green and another on the fourth fairway. "If things aren't as exciting in terms of head to head, you've got the potential for diversity."
"It's a good part of the game," said Mike Owens of Wheaton, sitting beneath a giant blue spruce on the fourth fairway with a bag full of carrot sticks. "You hear rumors about how the other people are doing. Someone'll whisper, 'He just eagled that hole,' and you feel the ripple run through the crowd, then suddenly there's a stampede between fairways. I haven't seen any deaths yet."
As Ron (the Council Bluffs Butcher) Stander's wife said after Stander fought Joe Frazier: you don't enter the Indy 500 in a Volkswagen unless you know a shortcut.
So most of the 31,500 spectators at the final round of the Kemper yesterday came prepared with their own strategies for enjoying the three-ring circus without missing the flow. How can you be two places at once when you're nowhere at all?It depends on what counts; for many, it's a good view, a good tan and a good time.
With that in mind, here are a few approaches you might want to try next year:
The E Street Shuffle: The masses bounce back and forth between adjacent fairways to catch one threesome of near-leaders going and the top threesome coming. "You just ferry between them," said Jeremiah Collins of Arlington. "You hear what's happening over there, and you see what's happening here and you guess what's happening elsewhere."
The One Step Ahead: "We're going to advance, wait for the people to catch up, then advance again, staying a little ahead," said Nancy Tulloh of Vienna. The trouble here, of course, is that you never see the golfer. This plan includes a variation called the Outback. "We're going to head out to 13, because most people don't want to walk all the way out there," said Rich Shattuck of Washington. "Eighteen is already full up."
The Favorite Watering Hole: "This is the spot -- simply beautiful," said Phillip Anstead of Washington, stretched out next to the pond rimming the 10th green. "It's a very tough 466-yard par 4. Last year, barely a threesome went by without someone hitting the water. Mostly though, I enjoy the turtles and the fish."
The Freestyle: "I try to watch everybody tee off and everybody finish and I sort of improvise in between," said Sam Hampton of Beckley, W.Va.
The Tom Watson: For second-generation Arnie's Army, all roads lead to the perennial favorite. Spectators may wander, but not beyond earshot, where the staccato burst of a sudden cheer draws them back like moths to a lightbulb. "I'm in love with him," said Peggy Frickle of Washington. "Why should I move?"
The Hearsay: "Could have been Craig," said Owens' companion, Jim Riggs of Germantown, after a shift in the wind carried a mammoth round of applause. "No, that sounded like a Weiskopf cheer," said Owens. "Polite for Stadler, but gutty for Weiskopf."
The Bloody Mary: The clubhouse terrace serves as the vantage point for the front nine, the dining room with the Advent screen for the back nine.
The Forest for the Trees: As the afternoon galleries swell to 10 rows deep, the oaks and pines become the premium perches. Golf fan as orangutan.
"That's what I'm going to do next year," said one short spectator when he spied the CBS cherry picker on the 14th green, "bring your own crane."