There's nothing wrong with Hoch's view of the Ryder Cup—especially if you don't bury his comment that "spending all that time with your teammates is what makes it so much fun"—but you only have to listen to him spout off for a few minutes to comprehend how Hoch can turn glib into glub-glub. "He's very honest," says his father, "but he says the wrong damn thing sometimes, and he won't get off it."
Last week, for example, a neighbor dropped by to give Hoch a bag of just-picked grapefruit, prompting Hoch to volunteer that his family didn't eat grapefruit because it was too acid.
"Honey, that was rude," Sally said when he told her about it later.
Scott looked perplexed. "I was just being honest," he said. "Pop can't eat it because it makes his bottom itchy."
Scenes like that, ripped from the scripts of Everybody Loves Raymond, reveal Hoch to be tactless but funny, abrasive yet guileless. "He's a misunderstood guy," says Perry, who has been friends with Hoch since Arnold Palmer paired them at the 1996 Presidents Cup. "He's really a softie."
Last year Hoch won the Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic without his regular caddie, Damon Green, because Hoch had dithered until the week of the tournament before entering. As consolation, Hoch took Green on a four-day, guys-only trip to the Bahamas. "We drank and played golf and tried to fish," says Green, a former touring pro with dozens of mini-tour victories. "Scott's a good boss. People just take him the wrong way."
Hoch accepts some of the blame—"I've said some things I shouldn't have said"—but in his heart he knows who's at fault: the media. It was CBS producer Frank Chirkinian, after all, who stared at a camera shot of Hoch during the 1989 Masters and growled to no one in particular, "I can't believe I'm directing a Masters that Scott Hoch is going to win." It was the golf writers who pounced on Hoch's criticism of the Old Course at St. Andrews some years ago and made it sound as if he had called for a quarantine of Great Britain and the dissolution of NATO. It was writers, again, who typed the argument that Hoch didn't deserve his 1986 Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average because he hadn't won a Tour event that year and had avoided some testing courses. It was a newspaper, the now defunct Dallas Times Herald, that in 1988 named Hoch Least Popular Golfer, citing a locker-room poll of about 50 players.
"Don't bring that up!" Sally cries, causing heads to turn in an Orlando seafood joint.
Scott couldn't help himself. "It's out there, honey," he says. "Everybody knows about it. Once something is written...." He squirms in the restaurant booth, his frustration still palpable after 14 years. Two minutes later, having vented on the unscientific nature of the old poll and questioned the motivation for what he regarded as a mean-spirited question, he finally sags, recognizing the futility of argument. "You can't unring a bell," he says.
Nor can you win pissing contests with people whose bladders bulge with high Nielsen ratings. Hoch says he once confronted Chirkinian in the locker room after finishing a distant third to Robert Wrenn in the 1987 Buick Open. "He said, 'Look, before you get started, nobody cares. Nobody wanted to see you. You weren't the story.' "