With American golfers taking a back seat to Northern Ireland in our national championship these days, we can perhaps take a little solace in stealing one of their own.
Adopted is probably a better term. Truth is, County Down native David Feherty adopted U.S.
A former European Ryder Cup member turned broadcast analyst, Feherty is a fiercely patriotic American citizen now. He took his oath in 2010. You're not likely to find a more staunch and motivated supporter of our troops. He's done more for injured veterans with his Troops First Foundation than 99.9 percent of us who were born and raised here have.
He's also funnier than 99.9 percent of Americans. And with his brand of wit and a new Golf Channel vehicle entitled simply Feherty , he would dearly love to help get one of America's wounded athletes back on his feet.
Asked the one "get" he wants to land most on his new show, Feherty went straight for the great whale -- Tiger Woods. He hasn't been able to reel him in for an interview despite a friendship and a shared taste for sophomoric giggles.
"The worst thing in the world was not being Tiger Woods," said Feherty in an informal Q&A before the U.S. Open with a few reporters who stuck around after his live launch party in Washington. "It was OK for a long time and it's probably still OK. But I think he would be a lot happier if he got a bunch of (stuff) off his chest and was asked the right questions and given the right forum in which to answer them. He doesn't trust so many people."
Woods, as we all know, is in a funk that's swallowed almost two years of his so-called prime. His personal life went off the rails in a tabloid scandal after Thanksgiving 2009. His game went to seed and prompted a third career swing overhaul. Now he's on the disabled list with a re-injured knee and Achilles tendon that puts his immediate future as well as his longevity in limbo.
Woods forced into hole
Feherty feels for the guy and wishes he could do something to get him back to the place golf needs him.
"I'm sorry we just hammered on him so much that whatever we did to him, we forced him into a hole," Feherty said. "It's not all our fault, obviously. You've got to be able to stand up and deal with these things
"We expect so much from him. I don't think anybody can possibly understand how he feels at the minute because no one has been where he's been and come down to where he is now. The level of frustration, the level of disappointment he must feel, I don't think there's been another athlete -- I can't think of one -- that would have gone through such a thing.
"It doesn't matter whose fault it is at the end of the day. That's irrelevant. You were here and now you're there and you're hurt. It would be very easy to feel the world is against you. I suspect he doesn't feel like that but I know he's like a badger in his set right now. He's not coming out, not for anybody."
Since press conferences aren't the best forum and even a grin-and-bear-it appearance on late-night television with Jimmy Fallon seemed stiff and awkward, Feherty might be just the tonic Tiger needs to get everything off his chest so he can move on. Feherty -- who fell into his own abyss with depression and alcoholism -- can certainly empathize with someone trying to pick themselves up from rock bottom.
Feherty wishes Woods would do what Colin Montgomerie never did -- laugh at himself. Monty never forgave Feherty for dubbing him "Mrs. Doubtfire," blaming that for his inability to win in the U.S. or claim a major. Feherty believes Monty could have turned it upside down by just dressing the part of Mrs. Doubtfire once, sharing the laugh and thus diffusing it's power.
If he were to get Woods to agree to an interview, what would he ask him?
"I'd ask him if he could change one thing in his life, what would it be?," Feherty said. "I would ask if he confused fun with happiness, thinking they're the same thing. I'm an addict and that's what I did. I thought fun and happiness were the same thing. They're not. They're entirely different. That's a common thing among all addicts. They get those two things mixed up. What happens when you blend fun and happiness? It turns into unhappiness."
Ingredients for success
Feherty's show has all the ingredients to be a breakout hit for the Golf Channel. The premiere episode mingled a brilliant candid interview with Lee Trevino, a poignant self-confession of Feherty's own sins and enough little bits and pieces of humor to keep the whole thing rollicking.
Feherty's worst fear is failing a project that has his name on it. But as long as he has some deft editing to keep him from crossing over the edge (the show is mercifully, for his sake, not live), he'll thrive.
And Feherty has managed to thrive on television with a rapier wit that never seems to stop. He survived a political kerfuffle of his own in 2009 over controversial language he used regarding House and Senate leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
Considering CBS partner Gary McCord got banished long ago from the Masters Tournament telecast for the relatively benign "bikini wax" and "buried elephant" quips, is Feherty surprised to still man the tower at the 15th green every April?
"I've been asked that a lot and no, not really," he said. "That tournament, everybody goes there and feels different. Yeah, sometimes it's a pain ... to sort of go by the strict sort of code they have there. But the great thing is, first of all, they've always had a foreign drunk on their crew, from Henry Longhurst to Ben Wright and now me. I'm sort of carrying on the line even though I've been sober for five years. But I love the fact that my voice is a part of that broadcast because it's an important broadcast. ... I've become more and more comfortable there over the years and I love the fact that there's less commentary."
He points to Longhurst's commentary at the 1970 British Open at St. Andrews when Doug Sanders stood for an eternity over his 3-foot putt to win, at one point swatting away a phantom. Longhurst said nothing for 45 seconds; when Sanders backed away, he simply whispered "Oh dear."
"Then (Sanders) had this spasm like he'd been tasered by an Oklahoma state trooper," Feherty said. "The ball wanders past the hole and Henry said, 'What a pity.' Now that's commentary right there. We can see it with our eyes and we can feel the agony. We don't need anybody to describe it. I love that about the Masters. We give more punctuation than commentary."
And Feherty now provides a welcome exclamation point with his show.