5 TIPS FOR ENJOYING GOLF
ENCOUNTERS » Golf tournaments put fans closer to the players than most sporting events. That's especially true during Wednesday's practice round, when crowds are lighter, cameras are permitted and autographs are plentiful. Just bring a permanent marker and something to sign. "Many players can't sign golf balls due to their endorsement contracts," says Chris Reimer, PGA communications director.
LESSON PLANS » Yes, amateurs, you can improve your game by watching the world's best in person, but don't focus on their swing. Instead, pay attention to what they do before hitting a shot. "Most amateur golfers don't have a set pre-shot routine," says Don Padgett, executive director of the tournament. "These guys do the same thing every time, from the first shot to the last."
SOUND ADVICE » Unlike other sports where all the action is in front of you, the Bridgestone Invitational spreads out across Firestone's 7,400-yard layout. Listen to the Live Sports Radio feed (with headphones) to get a better picture of the entire tournament.
EARLY BIRDIES » Arrive when the gates open at 7:30 a.m. and you won't have to choose whether to sun in the bleachers or shadow a player. "Walking with a group, you can get some exercise and see how the players approach the golf course," says Padgett. Then grab a spot on 18 to watch the leaders — who begin around 2 p.m. — finish their rounds.
WORLD VIEWS » Only the top-ranked pros and rising talent from the Asian and European circuits are eligible to play the tournament. "Take a look at some of the people you don't [normally] see," says Padgett, who suggests Italian 20-year-old Matteo Manassero. "He is a young up-and-comer."
4 SPOTS TO WATCH
|Hole 3 » If you enjoy seeing PGA pros look mortal, watch from behind the green on this 442-yard par 4. One of the course's most difficult holes, this dogleg right requires a good tee shot into a sloped fairway. The elevated green provides a nice view for the approach. "This hole does give up an awful lot of birdies," says Steven Carter, director of golf at Firestone. "It can also make a mess of things."
|Hole 9 » Ah, the pesky short game. Park in the bleachers behind No. 9, a par 4 lined with fairway bunkers. More sand guards the elevated green, which slopes from back to front, making it a tough second shot. "You'll see a lot of players miss the green, which gives them a chance to show off their short game," says Don Padgett, executive director of the tournament. Plus, you're a chip shot from the clubhouse air conditioning.
|Hole 12 » Plant your stool early if you want the prime real estate atop the mound behind the 180-yard par 3's bunker-buffered green. "You can stand in this one spot and see 12's green, No. 8 tee and No. 7 green," says Padgett, who watched from this spot as a boy.
|Hole 16 » The 667-yard par 5 is Firestone's signature hole. From the shady right side of the giant fairway hill, you can witness the pros wallop their drivers. But then things get dicey as players are faced with a tough decision: Go for the well-guarded green by hitting it over the pond or lay up for a much safer full wedge shot into the green. "A lot of drama goes on here," Padgett says. As a bonus, No. 17's tee is right there, too.
3 RESTARAUNTS FOR EVERY TASTE
|MEET THE PROS
|COUNTRY CLUB FEEL
|» The kids were quiet all day, so reward them at On Tap Grille & Bar, which offers a waterside patio and a $4.99 kids' menu. 562 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron 330-644-1664
|» With its menu of steaks and seafood, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse draws the PGA Tour players like duffers to the rough. 4000 Medina Road, Akron, 330-670-5200
|» Hacker Bar and Grill sits next to a public nine-hole course and most menu items are less than $12. Call first for availability. 600 Swartz Road, Akron, 330-724-9123