Irish character, says Ulsterman David Feherty, is like Irish _ weather: Rich in variety, but lacking stamina—it sticks to nothing for long. When Feherty, golf's greatest Irish character, was a wee lad of nine, he had just enough stamina to caddie for his old man at the Bangor Golf Club in County Down. William Feherty's foursome included his physician, whose advice for the elder Feherty's insomnia had been, "Play a round in your head." While walking the fairway at the 4th hole, the doctor asked William, "Did you sleep any better?"
"Not really," said William. "I played great until the 3rd tee shot, which I sliced into the trees. I was awake all night looking for the ball."
More than three decades later David Feherty gleefully calls this the defining moment of his life. "I realized that everything my dad and his friends said was total bull," he says, "and that there were more important things than sport. That one quip spurred me on to be a wiseass."
What Feherty defines as wiseass others call a singular genius for making fun of everything pompous, humorless and boring. In short, the PGA Tour. Over the last three years this onetime European tour player has become the most entertaining TV analyst this side (or maybe the far side) of Bob Newhart. Whereas the humor of CBS teammate Gary McCord can sound slavishly contrived, Feherty comes off as unaffected and unrehearsed. "David's an amoeba," says retired CBS golf producer Frank Chirkinian. "There's form, yet no form. He's so spontaneous that you never know what's coming next."
A few Fehertyisms that have come and gone: "The only time Nick Faldo opens his mouth is to change feet."
"On a bad day my swing was like a privy door on a trawler in the middle of the Atlantic."
"So many born-again players have credited the Lord after victories that Jack Nicklaus's record for major titles is in jeopardy. God is already halfway there."
Feherty is shamelessly willing to go in for absolute nonsense—to not only be utterly silly but also display outrageously bad taste. Who else can get away with saying a certain pro "couldn't hit a tile floor with a bladder full of beer" or likening a ball thwacked off a club face to "hot snot out of a chrome nostril"?
Feherty's pinball-machine mind lacks an off switch. "David is the kind of commentator—and it's very, very rare—whom people will tune in to just to watch," says Rick Gentile, the former executive producer of CBS Sports, who hired Feherty in 1996. "Viewers know that even if a tournament isn't compelling, David will be."
At last week's PGA Championship, Feherty again compelled his way into the nation's living rooms. CBS bills Feherty as an on-course reporter, though he prefers the lesser designation of mobile microphone holder. He'll relay how far a shot has been hit, describe the lie and identify what club a golfer is using. "I'm just a fairway creeper trying to stay out of the way," he says in a voice that doesn't so much speak as croon. "A chimp could do my job. The network can't find one with a foreign accent."