Off camera Feherty's wit is even more mordant. Among his dislikes: sweet wines, being away from home, accommodations at the British Open ("I always get stuck in rooms with nylon sheets and shiny toilet paper," he says), food that looks up at him from the table, unplayable lies, the film Striptease, the actress Sandra Bullock, the actor Tom Arnold and the singer Mariah Carey ("She sings like a mouse on acid," he says).
Among his likes: Beamish stout, being home, Donegal sunsets, jalapeño peppers, 10-inch eagle putts, the book Striptease, the actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, the actor Liam Neeson and the singer Bob Dylan ("Golf is like a Dylan song," he muses. "You don't have to understand it to enjoy it").
Golf is something he neither likes nor dislikes. "It falls in the middle," he says. "I've never had an overwhelming passion for the game. One of my greatest problems as a player was that I couldn't be that serious. I was more interested in behaving badly. All that work and practice is overrated. It occupies a lot of time that could be spent drinking beer or telling jokes or laughing good-naturedly at other people's failures."
Generally, the failures Feherty laughs at are his own. He's exceedingly gracious and good company, with a gift for mimicry and an undepletable store of anecdotes. He'll rabbit on forever about his old sports car, a 1990 AC Cobra, a "roller skate with 350 horsepower that spat out unburned fuel on the downshift, was so percussive that when you turned on the ignition, it would trigger every car alarm within five miles, and got four miles to the gallon—on the highway. It's the only car I've ever driven in which you could watch the fuel gauge moving." Then there's his former caddie, Rodney, who used to "stay up all night drinking cleaning products" and the Porsche Feherty totaled at the 1992 Irish Open when "a wall leapt out in front of me" and the Senior tour player who "has a recurring nightmare of getting in a plane crash and having his body found in coach."
Many of Feherty's favorite reminiscences are trotted out in a monthly column he writes for Golf Magazine. "My literary models are P.G. Wodehouse, J.P. Donleavy and P.J. O'Rourke," says D.W. Feherty. Of the three his prose is more P.G.-rated—fluid, stylish and infused with a Wodehousian sense of the elegant and the absurd, golf in a nutshell.
In the harbor town of Bangor, near Belfast, sarcasm was a staple of the Feherty household. David still remembers the night Da crawled home from a pub and told Ma, "Sorry I'm late, dear. Is my dinner warm?"
"Yes," she said evenly. "It's in the dog."
David was William and Violet's only son, the middle child of three. A choirboy at six, he was trained to be an opera singer. "When I reached puberty, my voice broke," he says. "From then on I sounded like a baritone held very tightly by the scrotum." Today he sings just to punish his kids. "It's so much more effective than spanking."
A Protestant, he mingled with Catholics only when on the links. "We'd shoot par in the morning and each other at night" he says. In 1976, with his handicap down to five, the 17-year-old Feherty quit school and turned pro. As he tells it, the idea came one day while sitting in geography class. "I figured I'd learn more about a certain country if I visited it," he says, "so I went to see the headmaster, and within a few days I was an assistant pro in England."
During his 20 years as a tour pro Feherty was decent if unspectacular, winning five events in Europe and 10 worldwide. His first two victories came in 1986 at the Italian and Scottish Opens. "It felt pretty weird," he says. "I didn't think I was that good." He wasn't. Yet in '91 he made the Ryder Cup team that narrowly lost the War by the Shore at Kiawah Island, S.C., and beat Payne Stewart in the singles. "On my first putt everything moved except my bowels," he says. "It took about four years to stop shaking."