Complete charisma: Q&A with David Feherty

One of golf’s familiar voices made his return to Conover on Wednesday.

Golf commentator, author and talk show host David Feherty spoke to the Hickory Sportsman’s Club at Rock Barn Golf & Spa in Conover on Wednesday.

He is the host self-title show “Feherty” on The Golf Channel, author of six books and is a part of the commentator team for golf coverage on CBS.

Feherty is only one of three men to ever speak at the Hickory Sportsman’s Club twice, joining Terry Bradshaw and Bobby Knight. Feherty last spoke to the club back on April 5, 2005.

Before the meeting, O-N-E Sports Editor Cody Dalton was able to interview Feherty on a number of topics.

Below are his responses:

Q: You’ve done a bunch of interviews. What is the funest interview you’ve ever done and why?

DF: The most fun was probably with Greg Norman because I was there for four days afterwards. He has thermal fortunately or he wouldn’t have found me. He’s got 65,000 acres in Colorado. We hunted, shot and fished. All the things I love to do. He’s a great friend. I think that’s the most fun. I just came back from New York City yesterday and was lucky enough to have Rudy Giulliani. He was absolutely spellbinding. His account of the events of 9-11. Just as preparation and the way he dealt with things. Some of my favorite shows were Bill Russell. He was unbelievable. He is an extraordinary man and the time that he lived through. The dignity he had and how funny he was. David Duval. I loved that show. I love to be able to show people that they perhaps have a perception of somebody that I know isn’t correct. I like to be able to show them that. Sergio Garcia is another one, where we went to Boreal in Spain. He is still a momma’s boy. He is a kid with a great heart. If he wasn’t allowed to speak 20 minutes after he finished playing, we’d have an entirely different opinion of him. He just wears his heart on his sleeve, and sometimes his mouth gets out there, too. I’ve done sixty-something now. I find out something about everybody. It’s been a real trip.”

Q: As you go along, are you looking to interview more non-sports figures versus political figures?

DF: “I’ll do Samuel L. Jackson. I’ve got Wayne Gretzky and John McEnroe coming up. Donald Trump, President Clinton. The people that do the most numbers, which is what television is all about, are golfers. It’s the Golf Channel. It took me a while to figure that out. It shouldn’t have taken me that long. People are interested in Keegan Bradley, and I love Jordan Spieth coming up. There are interested in their stories. The Rory McIlrory story, which I did in Season 1, I realized he was 21 years old. He doesn’t have much of a story. He isn’t old enough yet. The history isn’t there. Those are sometimes some of the more difficult shows with the younger guys. It’s always nice when I get to interview a friend, as well. I saw the video on Sam Torrance, which hasn’t aired yet. I traveled with Sam for 20 years in Europe. We decided that’d we’d always be friends because we know too much about each other. I’m dreading that one because he was hammered and said a bunch of things about me. I have to trust my editors because once it’s shot, I have no part in it. A lot of people want to see the show. I don’t even watch it when it airs. I’ve ever watched one episode, and that’s Lee Trevino. That was the first episode we ever did. I can’t watch myself on television. It creeps me out.”

Q: Is there a golfer that you think is a real up-and-comer?

DF: We have so many of them. They are such great kids, as well. Billy Horschel. Ricky Fowler is only 25. Jordan Spieth is the best I’ve seen since Tiger (Woods). Rory McIlroy is still there. There are a bunch of kids that show up that I don’t recognize except their names keep showing up. I think I have to figure out who that is. They’ve got a great attitude. I think we are seeing the first wave of kids that grew up with Tiger as the guy who set the bar, if that’s possible. Their attitude is a little different towards what’s possible and what isn’t in golf. We are seeing that ripple effect. In 1997, we see this kid (Woods) come along and win The Master’s by 12 (strokes). Jordan Spieth was (age) 5. They are just starting to think about taking a wack at a golf ball, most of these 20 to 23 year olds. There are a couple of dozen of them out there. I think the game is in great shape because of it.”

Q: Speaking of Tiger, what do you see for the future for Tiger?

DF: “If he gets fit, he’s still No. 1 in the World, and he has a broken back this time. He won the U.S. Open with a broken leg. People have forgotten what it’s like when Tiger was playing well. It’s been so long since he was playing well by his own standards. If he plays average, he’d be No. 1 in the World until he quits. If he plays well again, good luck to everybody because it’s a sight to see. I was there for it for that rampage he went on when he was with Butch Harmon at the turn of the century. It was the most amazing thing. My children won’t see anything like it, and their children probably won’t either. He was just that good. You aren’t meant to be that good. His winning percentage for about 4 or 5 years was close to the middle 40s. Jack Nicklaus was the greatest golfer ever, and when he retired, his win percentage was 11 percent. Tiger is still in the 30s. It’s unbelievable. If he gets fit, if this back operation works and if he gets strong again. His dad was a green beret. He doesn’t quit. He never quits. He just keeps on going until mission first. Nobody can win if he plays well. He’s the first golfer in history where you can even say that. Nicklaus played well, but somebody else could win theoretically.”

Q: I think a lot of people overlook what kind of a golfer you were.

DF: “They are right to overlook that.” (jokingly)

Q: You won the Scottish Open, and the trophy disappeared. What happened to it?

DF: “I kind of lost it. I was drinking heavily. There was one member of Led Zepplin involved. I don’t recall. Those are 48 hours of my life that are missing. So is the oldest trophy in professional sports. I’m not proud of it, but it’s one of those things that happened. The Scottish Open trophy, which is for the oldest golf tournament in the world. They give you a solid silver replica of the clubhouse at Loch Lomond, which is a golf course designed by Tom Weiskopf. Every time I see it, I wonder where the hell that is.”

Q: Who do you like for this week’s Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte?

DF: “Rory (McIlroy) had been playing well again recently. It’s got a great field. I’d be lying if I told you I had a clue who is libel to win it. We saw Derek Ernst last year. There are so much strength and depth these days. These tournaments are so hard to win. It wouldn’t surprise me to see another youngster come through and win it. It’s a great golf course. The folks at the Byron Nelson were asking me what they could do to get a better field. If you look at the tournaments that have great fields, they have great golf courses. It doesn’t really matter how the players are treated with a nice hotel or the courtesy cars are great. If it’s not a great golf course, they are probably not going to come.”

Q: Do you think Phil Mickelson’s arthritis is hurting him more than he is letting on?

DF: “Yea, a little. He probably is. He has got a complicating stretching routine before he even gets out to the public. I have psoriatic arthritis in both thumbs and in my hands. He is fortunate that he doesn’t have it in any gripping surfaces. I know he suffers in his knees and backs. I think it does affect him more than he lets on.”

Q: What was the proudest moment of your career?

DF: “I was born in Northern Ireland, so I could be Irish, British or both. I was both for a long time and never really thought about what I was. When I captained the Irish side on the Dunhill Cup in 1990, we beat the English at St. Andrew’s. Anyone that has seen ‘Braveheart’ knows when you are in Scotland and are playing the English and you’re Irish, so is everyone else, including the Scots. When they raised the flag at the prize-giving, I felt a lump in my throat. I started to whell up. I thought ‘Holy (expletive), I’m Irish.’ I was 32 years old when I figured that out. The only time when I felt anything like that was when I became an American citizen. I felt that same feeling, maybe even moreso. It’s not geographical. It’s not political. It’s an emotional thing. For me, it was incredibly important to be an American because of where I grew up in an urban warfare environment in the 50s and 60s. Since I last spoke here, I’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan four or five times. There are four reasons why this country is great — soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines — period. There are no other reasons. Politicians can say what they want and do what they want, but someone has to actually execute it. That’s always been soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.

Q: What’s your favorite part of North Carolina?

DF: “I love Charlotte, although I’m always lost in Charlotte. There are two streets. Curtis Strange has his hunting camp somewhere up around there. Boy, I loved it up there. I like the South in general. I live in Texas. I’ve spent most of my time down here. I got back from New York City, and I felt like I had escaped from somewhere.”

Q: Who do you like at this year’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst?

DF: “Mickelson. I like Phil Mickelson at the U.S. Open this year. I don’t know why, but I just have a funny feeling that this will be his time. That would be something else to see him do that. That’s who I like.”