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David Feherty, golf's 'other' star, just might be its biggest

Former player David Feherty's irreverent commentary and revealing interviews on Golf Channel have struck a chord with fans and lifted his name onto a rarefied plane with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

February 26, 2012|By Diane Pucin
  • Golf announcer David Feherty broadcasts from the 16th green during the third round of the Phoenix Open.
Golf announcer David Feherty broadcasts from the 16th green during the… (Ross D. Franklin / Associated…)

The fans call their names.

"Tiger, sign my arm," and "Please, Phil, sign my hat."

Yet it seems as if the most often-heard shout at professional golf tournaments televised by the Golf Channel and CBS is, "David, please, look this way."

Tiger Woods. Phil Mickelson. David Feherty. The three biggest rock stars in golf right now.

Feherty was a golfer once too, a pretty good one, and he understands what it is like to be a star. He just wishes people would shut up about it sometimes.

"It wears me out," Feherty said. "I'm trying to do my job, being unobtrusive, being a fly on the wall and getting cutting edge with information.

"Somebody trying to win a golf tournament and having to listen to people shouting for me? That is becoming a problem."

Feherty's edgy television commentary led to his getting his own show on the Golf Channel. The second season premieres Monday night with Feherty spending the first of 18 scheduled hourlong episodes (up from 12 a year ago) with Sergio Garcia.

"He shows a side of golfers people might not see otherwise," Garcia said. "It's true sometimes that people might not understand or appreciate David's sense of humor, but I think that helps show us as regular people and not just professional athletes."

Feherty's edgy humor is part of what has made him a star.

About Nick Faldo, another former golf pro-turned-commentator, Feherty once said, "I am sorry Nick Faldo couldn't be here this week. He is attending the birth of his next wife."

When Feherty's program debuted on the Golf Channel last year, it became the most-watched series premiere in the network's 16-year history.

It was Lance Barrow, now coordinating producer for NFL telecasts on CBS, who has also been an assistant producer for the network on the Masters and PGA Championship, who first approached Feherty about moving from the course to the television studio in the mid-1990s.

"What always struck me about David," Barrow said, "is that he reminded me of John Madden. I consider John like a second father to me, and David and John both look at games they do with a different perspective."

Feherty has also not kept secret his personal struggles with alcohol abuse and bipolar disorder. Because of that, Feherty said, he thinks golfers are more accepting of his outrageous statements and also more willing to be open with him.

He said that were he to get an interview with Woods for his show — "And I would not rule out Tiger Woods, he hasn't said no" — he would not dwell on the scandals.

"I went through a divorce and a horrifying 21/2 years of my life, and I have no idea how anybody could play golf through it. It ended my career," Feherty said. "I was just lucky to be at the right bar at the right time when it happened and I got hired by a network that didn't notice."

Feherty said he was so deeply involved in drinking that when CBS first approached him about doing television work, he thought it was for a different reason.

"Honestly, I thought it was someone from '60 Minutes' coming to do a fearless expose about my behavior and my problems. Instead they wanted me to work with them," he said.

When he was in school in Ireland, Feherty said, he was a terrible student, "utterly hopeless" — except in two areas.

"Music and English," Feherty said. "In those I excelled without trying. I had a most wonderful English teacher and music teacher. The music teacher taught me how to listen. The English teacher taught me how to imagine."

Golf Channel President Mike McCarley pointed to Feherty's special, done in Indianapolis during the Super Bowl, where Tim Tebow agreed to be the featured guest, as the proof of Feherty's listening skills and imagination.

"He may not be for everybody," McCarley said, "but that was the best interview done with Tebow. It was far-ranging, wide-ranging." McCarley noted that Feherty got Tebow to say he might consider running for political office someday. "That caused a stir," McCarley said.

Feherty almost always causes a stir.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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