Gary McCord's voice preceded him into the Wedgewood Room of the Phoenix Country Club on Tuesday of last week, its sly cackle cutting a swath through the guests crowding into the room. "How quiet was the gallery?" McCord repeated. "So quiet you could have heard a lung collapse." The puckish CBS golf commentator rounded a table, tugged on his handlebar mustache and adjusted his silver belt buckle.
"Where'd you buy that belt?" asked PGA veteran Howard Twitty.
"Why?" said McCord. "You like it?"
"No, it's ugly," twitted Twitty. "I was just wondering where not to go."
For McCord, Augusta was where not to go last week. He had been banned from the Masters this year—and for who knows how long—for the crime of attempted humor during the telecast of last year's tournament. He said the putting surfaces were so slick because "they don't cut the greens here at Augusta, they use bikini wax." He said the lumpy terrain looked like "body bags."
"Blasphemy!" cried the masters of the Masters. Which is why last week McCord was back home in Arizona working the lunch crowd in the Wedgewood Room instead of in Georgia working the mike at the 17th green. "I had another option," he revealed to a reporter. "I considered flying to New Zealand and going bungee jumping stark naked except for a green Masters cap."
For the past nine years the part-time Tour pro had spent Masters Tuesday checking out course conditions, talking up golfers and writing wisecracks he could use during the telecast. This time around, McCord analyzed the swing of a Phoenix sportscaster ("Dismembered body parts moving in an undignified manner") then headed for the Wedgewood Room to attend a luncheon for the Santa Claus Classic, a local charity golf event he helped start and still helps fund. On Tuesday night he plugged his laptop into a wall jack and careered down the information superhighway. As host of a new weekly chat show on America Online, McCord was pelted with dozens of questions. Among them:
Q: Who got the crazy notion not to let you cover the Masters?
A: Hannibal Lecter, that goof!
Q: For what it's worth, most golfers I know will miss your coverage of the Masters. Golf is sport, and sport is entertaining. You are entertaining.