CARLSBAD — As far as the average person is concerned, the best way to watch a golf tournament may be on television.
When it comes to in-person viewing, golf ranks near the top for degree of difficulty, and most people don't even get a seat with their ticket.
But the true fan wants to be there, and there are two ways to watch today through Sunday at the MONY Tournament of Champions at Rancho La Costa. One is to follow players, the other to station yourself near a green and watch the field go by.
Many spectators use a combination, walking until their legs give out, then sitting awhile.
La Costa's tournament layout is probably better for viewing than most. Combining portions of the North and South courses has provided certain built-in advantages.
Three areas are situated so that you can keep track of four or five holes simultaneously from the right spot. One covers Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5; another Nos. 6, 7, 8 and 9; a third Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 16. And a steep hill in front of and to the left of the clubhouse forms a natural amphitheater from which to watch Nos. 1, 6, 7, 8 and 9.
Will Ferguson and Jim Wojdan of Torrance were part of a large gathering on the hill for the pro-am.
"This is an ideal setup for watching golf," Ferguson said. "You can see them putt out on 6; follow them all the way on 7, because it's a par 3; see them tee off on 8, and then see them come in on 9. You can even look back to the left and see whether they get on the green on 1."
Fletcher Hill, who moved with her husband to La Costa a year ago from Sarasota, Fla., contented herself watching two holes at the same time, from a small hill between the sixth green and the seventh tee.
"I got tired of running from one place to another," she said. "Both of these holes have water and good bunkers. Sunday, though, I'll go immediately to the 18th green and watch them come in. On the last day, that's where it's at."
Bob Vogt and his wife, Anne, were seated on folding chairs adjoining the 18th green. They live in Blaine, Wash., but spend two months each year in La Jolla.
"We can even walk around if we want to without losing our place," Bob Vogt said. "People honor these chairs. We were here for the Stat Match Monday, and we happened to see Dan Pohl shoot his hole-in-one. That was quite a thrill."
Lindsay Scott of Rancho Santa Fe, a Briton who used to direct the Piccadilly World Match Play tournament in London, renewed acquaintances with such tour veterans as Al Geiberger and Gary Player.
"There are a few players I know well among the seniors," Scott said. "I tend to stick with one group for about three holes, then go across to another group. When you're following a certain player, you should stay almost a hole ahead. As soon as they tee off, I'm walking."
Finally, there was advice from an expert, Jack Millard, Rancho La Costa's club pro and assistant tournament director.
"It depends on what the fan is interested in," Millard said. "I've always enjoyed going to the driving range. Certain people follow certain players, and sometimes they relate things to their own game. . . . The pros are like magicians, and the fans want to see how they do it.
"The natural amphitheater near the clubhouse is a great spot. And the greens are always popular. Everybody wants to see the end result."