David Feherty’s push-the-boundaries sense of humor may be an acquired taste, but once acquired it rarely disappoints.
A good illustration occurred during Sunday’s runaway victory by Tiger Woods at Firestone. Feherty, part of CBS Sports’ golf broadcast team, perhaps found his mind wandering a bit when a squirrel appeared on one of the greens. “There was an itinerant squirrel in Tiger’s line,” Feherty reported to his colleague Gary McCord. “We had to have it forcibly removed. It turned on one of the marshals at one stage.”
Feherty, who this week will be part of the coverage on CBS and the Golf Channel from the PGA Championship at Oak Hill, also came away from Firestone with some insights about Woods heading into the PGA.
“People have very short memories,” Feherty said in an interview with The News this week. “They forget what happens when Tiger Woods plays well by his own standards. He won by seven this past weekend and really didn’t play particularly well. After he got it to 9 under par” in Friday’s second round, “he played the last five holes like a dog. I don’t know how many he would have won by if he managed to hit a fairway. I think he hit two fairways in a row twice all week.”
For Woods at Oak Hill, “It’s going to come down to what he’s like outside 250 yards,” Feherty said. “Because inside of 250 yards I don’t think I’ve ever seen him hit the ball as well as he did, and I’ve seen him do some extraordinary things. I don’t know which side of the flag the ball was going to miss on this last weekend, he just hit the ball so beautifully and so much all over the flagstick. But when he gets to the tee, I’m not sure he could hit the sea off an aircraft carrier.”
Feherty, 54, is native of Northern Ireland who earned 10 victories as a pro golfer. He has in past interviews candidly discussed his struggles with alcoholism and depression. He hosts a prime-time interview show on the Golf Channel, titled “Feherty,” and is a gifted storyteller who is much in demand on the speaking circuit.
“Basically my speaking engagements are” standup comedy, he said. “I’m really glad that no one has posted any of that stuff on Facebook because I’d probably be considerably fired by now.”
Feherty is also known for being an insomniac whose mind seldom stops racing, even at 4 a.m. However, he does not expect restlessness to be a problem this week.
“At the PGA Championship, there are more hours on television than any other golf event,” he said. “I think we do something like 34 or 36 hours of television and I’ll be involved in highlight shows on Thursday and Friday. I’ll be doing ‘Morning Drive’ for the Golf Channel. Two or three live-froms, the highlight shows for the Golf Channel as well. So I might even sleep this week, I don’t know. That would be most unusual if I did, but it really is a very busy week.”
Back in the 1980s, there was talk that the PGA was the weak link of the four majors, an anti-climax to the golf season. Now, in the era of Tiger Woods and company, that seems a distant memory.
“I love the PGA Championship,” said Feherty, who retired from his playing career in 1997 to join CBS. “Certainly since I’ve been in broadcasting, I think the PGA Championship has been the best finish of the year more often than not. You go back to Valhalla and Tiger Woods, Bob May. Atlanta Athletic Club and David Toms, Phil Mickelson. Tiger Woods and Rich Beem, Tiger Woods and Y.E. Yang. And last year, the finish with Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley was astonishing. … It’s my favorite major championship of the year.”
Woods and Phil Mickelson are getting a lot of media attention this week, of course. Who else does Feherty expect to see in contention at Oak Hill?
“I love the way Henrik Stenson has been playing these last few weeks. Ian Poulter is another, he’s just very hungry for a major championship. Adam Scott I think will win again. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Sergio Garcia in contention.”
And what of Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who has struggled this year, particularly in the majors. He may not be a favorite this week, but Feherty warns golf fans not to write off his countryman completely.
“If someone had given me $200 million at that age — or at any age — I think I would have taken some time off myself,” he said.
Feherty said other Northern Ireland golfers, including himself, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke, have not been models of consistency.
“And Rory is so young. It’s got nothing to do with equipment. He could play with a set of hockey sticks and an orange. It’s just, when he plays well, good luck to everybody else because he’s just spectacular. But he’s not going to play well for extended periods of time, I don’t think, he’s not going to be that kind of a player.”
Feherty gets to employ his full range of talents on his Golf Channel chat show, which includes comedy segments like those found on Letterman, Kimmel or Fallon. And he employs his comic persona as an interviewer, boldly going where few questioners have gone before. He asked basketball coach Bobby Knight, “Why were you such a … lunatic at times?”
Feherty to NBA legend Bill Russell: “So, Bill, you were left-handed and black? I mean those are two serious disadvantages on a golf course.”
How does Feherty get away with it?
“I think my life has been so profoundly screwed up that for some reason people get comfortable,” he said. “Compared to me they’re normal.”
As a golf analyst for CBS, Feherty has a bit of Johnny Miller in him. He seems unafraid to speak his mind or give certain players a hard time.
Colin Montgomerie still chafes at the memory of Feherty giving him the nickname “Mrs. Doubtfire” at the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional.
“I’ve got tremendous respect for these guys,” Feherty said. “They play golf for a living. They take their own money and they try to turn it into more. … I always say that people have a choice as to whether they’re going to be offended or not.
“I have a hatred for political correctness. I like the intellectual exchange between people who are willing to give each other a hard time. It’s my hope that whenever I do either criticize someone or comment about them in a manner like that, that they know it’s coming from a good place and not a mean-spirited place.”