Gary McCord lives to surprise us, to be unpredictable, to shake up our world. There's anarchy in his heart and just as much impishness as his trademark handlebar mustache suggests. Banned from CBS's Masters telecasts for some relatively innocuous comments, he's the closest thing televised golf has to a shock jock.
Tour player Brandel Chamblee once called McCord at his home in Vail, Colo., to arrange a visit. "Beautiful." said McCord. "I've been working out. We'll just do my normal routine." Chamblee asked what that was. "I get up every morning, strip off all my clothes and run naked with the elk near my house," McCord said.
"I'm sure that's in anybody's morning routine," says Chamblee. So was McCord going for the shock-value laugh? "I guarantee you he has probably run naked with the elk," says Chamblee, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., where McCord has a second home. "I'm surprised only when Gary does something normal."
Ready for another shock? McCord hits the magic number—he turns 50—next May. Although he still seems new and fresh, McCord has been injecting offbeat humor into golf telecasts for a dozen years. "You don't think of Gary as 50," says CBS colleague Jim Nantz. But the fact is that McCord and his wife, Diane, have four grandchildren. "He's definitely not the image you conjure up of your grandpa," says Nantz. "Boy, 50 will never be the same for me."
The serene Senior tour may never be the same either. With apologies to Hale Irwin, whose nine—and counting—victories this season are remarkable, the Senior tour could use a boost from someone like McCord, a guy whom millions of hackers think of as one of them. Despite Irwin, TV ratings for Senior golf are in a tail-spin. "The numbers are down 15 to 20 percent," says ESPN commentator Andy North, a two-time U.S. Open champion. "We wish they weren't, and Cadillac [a major sponsor] wishes they weren't. At the Senior tour sites, galleries are breaking attendance records and sponsors are happy, but on TV more people want to watch what Tiger [Woods] is doing."
The Senior tour was built around superstars, and they've gotten old. Arnold Palmer is pushing 70. Jack Nicklaus, 57, teed it up only six times with the Seniors in 1997 and, for the first time in five years, failed to win. Lee Trevino hasn't been the same player since neck surgery in 1994. Johnny Miller has played only twice since turning 50 in April, and because of his miserable putting—he averages 31.67 putts a round—will probably never be a factor. As fans look for someone to challenge Irwin, they see Gil Morgan and Larry Nelson, two great players who nonetheless have limited marquee value.
Says North, "Look at two players coming out at the same time next year—John Mahaffey and Gary McCord. You can't even compare their careers, yet who's the public going to watch?" The answer is not the guy with 10 victories, including a PGA Championship.
There's a catch, though. McCord has a day job and a dilemma. His CBS gig is so good, he may not give it up to play full time on the Senior tour. Plus, he has other interests. He writes an irreverent column for iGolf, an Internet site, and wrote an instructional book, Golf for Dummies, as well as Just a Range Ball in a Box of Titleists, which is about his own adventures (including a chapter about his appearance on the Lawrence Welk Show).
McCord also has his hand in movies. He was Kevin Costner's swing coach and appeared as himself in Tin Cup, and he's working with Tin Cup director Ron Shelton on a film about the legendary hustler Titanic Thompson.
McCord's CBS contract runs through 1998, during which he is committed to 26 telecasts. His plan is to play as much golf as possible next fall on any tour—PGA, Senior or Nike—to prepare for the Senior tour qualifying tournament in November. That will be something of a formality. McCord's career earnings of $659,479 on the regular Tour—he never won—are not enough for an exemption on the Senior tour, but even if he fails at Q school, he's sure to receive as many sponsors' exemptions as he desires.