David Feherty is a man who wears many hats, most of them on the golf course (and a few on the gun range). He’s a former pro golfer, massive Ryder Cup fan, author of four books, and a commentator on CBS and Golf Channel. If you don’t know the name, you’d know the voice — and his distinctly Irish commentary is equal parts biting and eloquent. Feherty’s an open book (“I emptied all the skeletons out of my closet a long time ago”), and a conversation with him rides the electrifying line of delving deep into the caves of human turmoil (his own fight against alcoholism) and then rising quickly into a joke (“I like your dog much more than I like you”).
In short, it’s real talk. He doesn’t mince words, and he’s not afraid to be genuinely upfront. It’s refreshing, and a complete departure from what you’d expect from a funny-man golf commentator. His thoughts on becoming American, the vices of religion, how he’s building ammunition in the basement, how cycling almost killed him, and of course, golf, below.
Q. Who would you say is your biggest influence?
A. Thomas Jefferson.
Q. How so?
A. He wrote the most important piece of language ever written — the Virginia Resolution. It became the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and it guaranteed the separation of church and state. The single most important concept in the history of civilization because if you look at every country that hates us, every country that’s fucked up, that’s what they got wrong.
Q. Is that especially apt coming from Ireland?
A. Yes. Yeah, it is. They all are — I have a healthy disrespect for religion. I really do. When Columbus came to this country in 1492 he brought syphilis, diphtheria, tuberculosis, influenza and Christianity. The diseases were curable.
The twenty-third of February, 2010 was a birthday for me. It was the day I became an American. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be one.
Q. You became a US citizen in 2010, right? How important was that for you?
A. It was immensely important to me. I needed to be a US citizen. I had lived here for 17 years at that point in time and my wife wanted to be married to an Irishman. But when I went to Baghdad for the first time, I became angrier and angrier about the way the military was being represented in the media, and I knew from having grown up in an environment where the enemy hides behind women and children and doesn’t wear a uniform. The sectarian murders, bombs going off, and troops on the street — I knew this was bullshit. So I went over and saw with my own eyes, and you know, came back. It was unbelievable: the restraint that these kids show on a daily basis just wasn’t being recorded. The compassion that they have, you know, just all kinds of positive things that weren’t being reported, and I just felt so passionate about it that I wanted them to be my military, and the day I came back I applied for citizenship, and you know, the twenty-third of February, 2010 was a birthday for me. It was the day I became an American. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be one.
Q. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
A. The hardest thing I ever did was get sober. I was drinking two and a half bottles of whiskey a day and taking 40 Vicodin. If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.
Q. As I was reading your biography, I kept thinking about Robin Williams and his own struggles. There’s this weird line that comedians ride where they’re oftentimes the most honest about life, but then they also, kind of, see the darkness. And our reaction to seeing the darkness is we either laugh about it or we cry about it. So I’m kind of curious to hear how you deal with that and where you find a balance.
I was drinking two and a half bottles of whiskey a day and taking 40 Vicodin. If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.
A. It’s a knife edge. You know, Robin William’s death — I mean, he didn’t commit suicide any more than someone who dies from lung cancer or whatever his disease that killed him. It was depression, and comedians walk a knife edge. It’s utter blackness on one side, and the bright light of day on the other, and you know, for me — being bipolar and an addict and an alcoholic — I have to keep myself very busy. I don’t sleep. I am lucky if I get three hours of sleep a night, and so I get up, and my head is full of slamming doors. I have got to do something that makes me focus on one thing, and so I will sit and listen to music, or I will read, or you know, I will go and make ammunition in my workshop, and you know, I have just got to keep myself busy. I have been to the edge, you know, where Robin Williams was, and I have been there several times, and I am terrified of going there again. And you try to describe it to people, and you really don’t want them to understand. I don’t want anybody to understand what that kind of depression feels like because in order to understand it you have to have been there, and I don’t want anybody else to go.
Q. What’s one thing every man should know?
A. Strip a rifle. Any rifle — bolt action, AR, you know, how to field strip it, how to clean it, and how to use it.
Q. Do you have a favorite gun to take to the range?
A. Yes. I am a huge fan of the six-and-a-half caliber, 6.5, and I think my favorite would be a 6.5 x 284 Norma. It’s still sonic at 6,200 yards and just lethally accurate and not much recoil. I adore shooting. I have a lot of snipers in my foundation. I have learned a lot over the last few years, and it’s my favorite thing to do.
Q. Do any hunting down in Texas?
A. I hunt feral hogs, but that’s it. I try not to shoot creatures. That doesn’t do anything for me. But big, nasty, smelly, bristly things with tusks that destroy everything that they touch. Yeah, I’ll shoot them.
I hunt feral hogs, but that’s it. I try not to shoot creatures. That doesn’t do anything for me. But big, nasty, smelly, thistley things with tusks that destroy everything that they touch. Yeah, I’ll shoot them.
Q. You seen American Sniper yet?
A. You know, Chris Kyle was one of my best friends, and Bradley Cooper looks like him. He sounds like him. He walks like him. I can’t watch it. I just can’t. I miss him every day. I think about him every day, and I just know that I couldn’t sit through that movie. I can’t do it.
Q. You had a bad cycling accident a couple of years back. Do you still ride?
A. You know, I don’t. I lost my nerve. I wasn’t just hit by motor vehicles, the fuckers ran over me, and it started to look like a bizarre hobby after the third time, and I almost lost my left arm. I have no recollection of the second time other than waking up in a Detroit hospital, and I went through the windshield in New York on the third occasion, and you know, that was enough… But the irony was, I really got into cycling when I tried to get sober, and it was a huge part of my therapy. You know, I’ve got to get up in the morning at 3:00 a.m. and ride for four or five hours — whatever, and I am thinking it saved my life. And then, you know, it almost killed me.
Q. What’s been your favorite relationship within golf?
A. You know, I have always had great relationships with caddies. Essentially, you know, when I started as a caddy and I ended up as a caddy with a microphone, really, I’d get all my information from them, and I used to get my drugs from them. It’s a subculture. You know, they are so funny, and they work really hard. They don’t keep the money that they make — at least for the most part they don’t. They live in the present, and it’s just — they are the lifeblood of the game. There’s nothing like — playing golf in a cart is one thing, but walking with somebody carrying your clubs — you know, it’s just so much a part of the game. I love them.
Q. What’s one of the accomplishments that you’re most proud of?
A. I think being on the Ryder Cup team, you know, is the high point for me. I only played on one, and we lost, and it’s still the high point, you know, just being a member of that club, you know? A Ryder Cup member. It is the greatest event in golf — one of the greatest in sports, I think. It’s one of those that transcends the sport because it’s about nothing except a trophy. There’s no money. There’s no nothing. It’s the reason that you play the game in the first place. The only similar event I can think of would be the Stanley Cup. Nothing matters except that trophy.
Make your practice swing first and let the ball get in the way. Your practice swing is always comfortable. You always end up in a good place. Nobody ever fucks up a practice swing.
Q. One piece of golf advice for our readers or our golfing readers?
A. Yeah, you know, I give the same advice to everybody. Make your practice swing first and let the ball get in the way. Your practice swing is always comfortable. You always end up in a good place. Nobody ever fucks up a practice swing. The problem is, you know, when you get to hitting the ball, you try to hit it, you’re not swinging. So if you make your practice swing and let the ball get in the way, then all you have to do is find out where the ball goes when you do that and then learn how to aim it.
Q. What’s one of your favorite events on the tour?
A. I love the Masters tournament. It’s such a special event. It really is. It’s the one major championship that returns to the same venue every year, and people have become familiar with it over the years. It’s the rite of spring.
Q. Any players you’re excited to watch this year?
A. Rory McIlroy, you know? I was the assistant pro at the golf club he grew up at 19 years before he was born. So, you know, to see Rory turn into the player and the kid that he is — I am immensely proud of him. We’ve got a great group of young players coming through the first vanguard of players that grew up with Tiger Woods who set the bar. It’s really exciting to see these kids play.
Q. What’s one thing nobody knows about you?
A. Nobody knows about me? Everybody knows pretty much everything about me. I emptied all the skeletons out of my closet a long time ago. I am trying to think. I am so in love with my beagle; I just can’t even tell you what that dog means to me. I adore dogs to the extent I think they are much more important than human beings, and that’s probably the one thing that I hardly ever bring up. I like your dog much more than I like you.
Feherty recently became Hyundai’s first golf ambassador (“I am just hoping that there’s no diplomacy required”) and will be the face and voice of Hyundai golf.