Feherty Is Back Where He Belongs
Wednesday, July 2, 2008; 11:12 PM
It was grand to hear David Feherty's voice on the other end of the phone the other day, just as it was fabulous to learn that for the first time since a horrific bicycle accident last winter, he was walking the fairways at Warwick Hills in the Detroit suburbs last week at the Buick Open analyzing golf and, as always, constantly cracking wise on the CBS golf telecast.
On March 15, Feherty was at the tail end of one of his typical 50-mile rides not far from his home in Dallas when he was knocked off his bicycle by a pick-up truck hauling a trailer. He suffered a separated shoulder, three broken ribs, one of them cracked in two places, a torn bursa sac in his left elbow and a punctured lung.
None of them were laughing matters, even if he still makes light of it all nearly four months later, even if his elbow is so mangled it very nearly resulted in an amputation and even if he probably will never be able to play golf again. But as Feherty would probably say, if he'd thought of it first, the man couldn't play golf when he was all in one piece, anyway, so what's the difference?
"I will never play golf again, there is no way," he said earlier this week on his way to Baltimore to host a charity dinner to help raise research funds to combat ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease. The next morning, he and Tom Watson hosted a group of 36 recovering soldiers from Walter Reed at the Chevy Chase Club for a day of golf, including a few three- and four-star generals caddying for the wounded warriors.
But back to Feherty's golf game, or lack thereof.
"I'd have to re-learn the game completely," he said. "Learning it the first time was bad enough. It's the perfect excuse for me. It's destroyed my burgeoning senior career."
But don't let the funny man kid you. There was a time when Feherty, a native of Northern Ireland, was a fine player. He won five times on the European Tour, finished in the top ten on the order of merit (money list) twice and played for Europe in the 1991 Ryder Cup. But he gave it all up to join CBS in 1997, and viewers ever since have been howling at his often self-deprecating humor and appreciating his frequently dead-on commentary.
There is also a darker side, as well. In a 2006 interview in Golf Magazine, Feherty spoke at length about his past problems with depression and alcoholism, saying "I used alcohol to mask my inner demons." He also savaged Tom Cruise, the Scientologist actor who had said at the time that therapy and drugs were useless and that depression was best cured by physical exercise.
"Actually, some sort of exercise would have helped me," Feherty said in the interview. "If I kicked the hell out of Tom Cruise, I'd feel a lot better about myself."
Despite his painful injuries, Feherty made it to Augusta National a month after being released from the hospital to work on the Masters telecast for the network. In retrospect, that was not a particularly good idea, considering that his elbow was still an ugly mess that required constant care, including hours in a hyper-baric chamber and using what he described as a "wound vacuum" to speed the healing process.
"I was on so many antibiotics, when I walked into a doctor's waiting room, the fish would all die in the tank," he said. "I worked the Masters, but I didn't know how serious it was. The crushed elbow was much worse than they initially thought. I put on 25 pounds and ended up on depression medicine again. I was in a recliner for two months. My elbow kept swelling up and I needed four surgeries on it. Because my bursar sac was destroyed, my lymphatic system was crushed, as well. Getting it all to heal was a long process. It took a long time."
Still, Feherty prefers to think positively. He said that while he may never be able to swing a golf club in anger again -- unless it's to take a swipe at smarmy Gary McCord's shins -- he will be able to ride his beloved bicycle again, and still take a shotgun out for hunting or target practice every now and then.
"I feel terrific," he said the other day. "I've thrown away all the pills. I'm an alcoholic and an addict, and I need that endorphin release. Now that I can walk a golf course again, that's my kind of medication. It's better than going to a meeting."
Of course Feherty couldn't help but point out that his return to PGA Tour telecasts also coincided with the news that Tiger Woods won't be playing again this year, and probably won't be back until a few weeks before the 2009 Masters.
"That was kind of a downer," he said. "I love to watch Tiger Woods, and I'll miss him out there. But last week (at the Buick Open) we had a heck of a finish and the game will go on. We've been spoiled with Tiger the last ten years. But when you take him out, you also have to appreciate what's left. These guys really do play so good. They play fantastic, and it's well worth watching."
And of course, it goes without saying that Feherty will be well worth listening to as he walks the fairways with the tournament leaders in the AT&T National at Congressional this weekend.
Even when he's not on the air, the man always makes me laugh. At the 1999 Kemper Open, I was walking inside the ropes at the old TPC at Avenel following then unknown Rich Beem on his own rollicking journey to his first tour victory. Feherty was all wired up for action, but at one point came rushing over to a couple of golf writers with some breathless news he just had to report.
"Len, Len, you're not going to believe this, but I've got the Dulles tower in my headset," he said. "They want to know my height and my position. I told 'em 'I'm five feet nine and standing in the middle of the eighth fairway at the TPC at Avenel.'"
Welcome back to Washington, Mr. Feherty. Looking forward to seeing you up close and personal back on the golf course this weekend. Better yet, can't wait to hear if the Dulles tower tries to get in touch again.
Leonard Shapiro can be reached at Len.Shapiro@washingtonpost.com.