The final day of a tournament is always the most exciting. But Tuesday’s practice session at the AT&T National, which is open to the public and costs $10 a person (12 and younger get in free), is something else entirely, whether you’re a serious student of the game or just looking for a chance to meet your favorite golfer.

Fans gather around the 15th hole to watch Tiger Woods play at a practice round at Congressional Country Club. (2007 photo by Pouya Dianat/The Washington Post)

A spectator's guide to the AT&T National

Mike Cherner, a member of Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, watches the tournament every year, in person and on television. But first, he makes a point of studying the pros as they practice Tuesday morning.

“I want to see the things that make the course exciting or really difficult,” explains Cherner, who is a partner in a liquor distribution company. “You’ll be able to see [the players] hit different tee shots or take different drops on the same hole. You can see how the different greens play.”

Cherner, 31, treats it like a scouting report for the tournament itself: Are the fairways favoring long drives? Will certain holes be especially difficult for chip shots? “Tuesday sets you up for watching the rest of the week,” Cherner says. “It gives you the most information about how [the tournament] is going to play out.”

Tuesday is also the most family-friendly day of the event, according to John Lyberger, Congressional’s director of golf. “Schools are out around here, so we get a ton of kids,” he says. But it’s also the relaxed nature of the practice round that makes it a great day out. “If you really want to see a lot of the marquee names, Tuesday’s a good day to go,” Lyberger adds. “The players are loose, they’ll chat with you.” You can cheer and applaud a putt without being shushed, and “you may get a wink or a smile.”

Point-and-shoot style cameras, which are banned during the competitive rounds, are permitted on Tuesday. And the clincher: “It’s a great day for autographs,” Lyberger says. “If you have kids and they want to get a cap or a pin flag signed, this is the day.”

The gates open at 6 a.m. Tuesday, and there are no set times for when the players take the course, though it’s generally early in the day.