I had the opportunity to catch up with the singular entity that is David Feherty by phone.
Feherty told me he was lying on the floor of the media center at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions trying to stretch his back out. He said his airline had wronged him. I asked him what they’d done.
Our conversation is below.
D.F.: It was just their seats…I’m in the sharp end of the airplane and I can’t get comfortable…
B.A.: That doesn’t seem right, does it?
It’s an outrage.
We’ll have to file a complaint. I’m sorry to hear that.
Tell me a bit about the campaign I hear you’re working on and how you became a pitchman in the first place?
I’ve just completed a set of three commercials we shot in Los Angeles for Hyundai, and it was a lot of fun to shoot them. I enjoy doing that kind of thing.
The real revelation for me was getting into the car and driving it. I drove a Hyundai ten years ago. The changes are unbelievable. Coincidentally, the car service I use to get to the airport in Dallas has just changed their fleet from Town Cars to the Hyundai Eqqus. The first time I got into one, I thought I’d been kidnapped by the cartel. I could have sworn it was a Mercedes or a high-end import.
They’re making these cars in Montgomery, Alabama. They’ve invested a huge amount in this country. They’re employing Americans, and it means a great deal to me.
Did you ever see yourself as a pitchman? I know you did the work with Bridgestone in the past.
To be honest with you, I didn’t see myself alive at 56. No, I didn’t see any of this. I didn’t see the T.V. show coming. I tell my four children—my four boys and one little girl—work hard, stay in school, and don’t do drugs. And the more observant of them say, “Dad, you didn’t do any of that.”
So, it’s all unexpected then…
It really is. You know, I can’t believe I came to this country kicking and screaming. I didn’t really want to be here. Within a few months it became very apparent that it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I’m very proud of being an American and very upset when anyone apologizes for being such a wonderful thing.
Absolutely. Absolutely. I guess then that you didn’t plot the course to being one of best on-course commentators in the game. I think that’s such a unique kind of skill set. It’s a real balancing act. I’ve seen you out there on the fairway. You have to be aware of what’s going on on the course and additionally what’s going on in the telecast. The essence of that craft escapes me. What do you think the key component is?
Well, I think it’s kind of walking the line between maintaining a relationship with the player and being able to tell the truth. And as you say, having a sense of what’s going on in the telecast.
Quite often, when a producer throws it to the 15th hole, and I’m on the 15th hole with the leaders, I have to know whether he’s showing the second shot or them putting on the green live. We’ll play things plausibly live when it doesn’t make any sense to say “a moment ago.” And there’s sort of a voodoo aspect to it that only the walkers, you know, the guys on the ground, have to get a command of.
I love to be on the ground because I never really felt like a commentator. In between shots and in commercial breaks, I still feel like a player.
One reform I’ve campaigned for is to have an umbrella mic out there to pick up snippets of conversation between me and the players, just to give the show a little more relevance and make the players seem a little more human. I think that’d be a major boost for any telecast…and not just with me, with anyone that’s out there.
Right. You’d certainly add a human element to all of that.
You’re going to be out there this week. What do you think the key to winning at Kapalua is and who do you like?
Well, it’s a very difficult tournament to pick a winner, I’ll be honest with you. Last year, many of these winners were first-time. Jimmy Walker has got off to a fantastic start the last couple of seasons. There’s so many good, very young players out here at the Plantation Course.
The Hyundai Tournament of Champions: it’s a special event. There are only 34 players. It will be someone who can be patient. The wind is not blowing at all at the minute, so it’s kind of freaky; we’re in the Twilight Zone. But you know it’s gonna blow. Anyone who can get through the week without getting in the head with a pineapple will have a chance.
Is there a real risk of that there?
We’re surrounded by sugar cane and pineapples. If you get disillusioned, you can just wander off.
Yeah. You could become entranced by the scenery. I don’t know if the punters have taken that into account. Hopefully that’s being factored in when picking a winner there.
Notice how I avoided picking a winner there?
You did. That was a wonderful bit of obfuscation there…Now you can’t be wrong.
Yeah, I brought fruit into the equation and it was all smoke and mirrors. Frankly, I don’t know.
Well me neither. So that makes for two of us.
There you go.
I’m curious too, you know, tremendous elevation changes, and you’re chasing down 400-yard drives. Where does Kapalua factor in as far as walkability and the difficulty of your task out there?
Well, good luck with the walkability. You actually need a Hyundai to get from a green to the next tee.
I guess it’s a fortuitous partnership then.
Well, that’s true.
It can be a very strenuous walk. But these kids are in fantastic shape. The most demanding part of any of these four-round golf tournaments is the guys who are close to the lead. Having that pressure when you go to bed at night, and waking up with it, for three or four days, they’re worn out mentally, not so much physically.
I’ll ask you for one more bit of prognostication here: Do you think Rory gets to the career grand slam this year?
It would halfway surprise me if he doesn’t, as good as he is. Unless Tiger Woods plays well, I can’t see anybody beating him.
His swing, it’s just statuesque. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing to watch. And he’s such a good kid too. He’s every mother’s dream. His commercial attachments…they’re all so delighted with him. He represents himself and the game so beautifully. It’s an honor to be around in the Rory McIlroy era.
Absolutely. He’s a tremendous spokesperson for the game. Is his your favorite swing to watch?
At the moment, for sure. It’s just beautiful. Long, straight lines. Effortless power. A fabulous follow-through. When your knees just bend a bit and you sink into that comfortable follow-through position, it’s like, “Oh, please. I wish I could do that once in my career.”
It’s beautiful and disgusting all at the same time.
OK. I’m happy to let you off the hook now, sir.
Yeah. I just never stop…never start working. I think that’s the word I’m looking for there.
I’m very grateful, personally. You’re someone I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to talk to. Thank you, sir.
I love people with low standards. Thank you.
Be well and avoid getting hit in the head with a pineapple.
You’ve got it. I’ll avoid the drive-by fruitings.