Rude: Feherty, McCord provide levity at Tavistock Cup
Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com usually on Wednesday.
WINDERMERE, Fla. – Give the opulent cash grab that is the Tavistock Cup this: Outside of western Australia anyway, it has the most entertaining first-tee introductions in world golf. With TV humorists David Feherty and Gary McCord holding court if not tongues, the closely mown grass is more improvisational comedy club than teeing ground.
None of the 24 contestants among the Multimillionaires Boys Club was spared the playful needle Tuesday at hoity-artsy Isleworth. The miked Feherty and McCord treat the hit-and-giggle competitors as famous props, tossing barbs and quips as if they were comedians on stage responding to the heckler in the front row.
Rickie Fowler steps up to the ball in his orange getup and McCord introduces him as the “man who was breast-fed by a rainbow.” Post pregnant pause, McCord adds, “Tell your mom I’m sorry, all right?”
That was standard fare, and a player’s swing hardly interrupted the emcees’ clowning. Unsure when to drive, Swede Peter Hanson backed off and asked, “Am I allowed to play while you’re talking?”
“Play away,” Feherty shot back. “We’ll try to not let the sound of impact get in our way.”
When Paul McGinley, 2014 European Ryder Cup captain, was set to drive, Feherty cracked that McGinley “already told me he’s picking Colin Montgomerie early.” The reference was to the man McGinley beat out for the captaincy and the man Feherty nicknamed Mrs. Doubtfire, a label Monty has loathed.
Tuesday, Feherty referred to Ian Poulter as Mrs. Poulter, given the dress the Englishman wears in a commercial. As cash cow Bill Haas addressed the ball, Feherty said, “I’m surprised he can make a follow through with his own wallet in the way.” McCord introduced Jay Haas as “Jerry Haas’ brother,” a nod to the Wake Forest golf coach.
PHOTOS: Day 2 action at Tavistock Cup
Check out Tiger Woods, Fred Couples and the rest of the field at the Tavistock Cup.
Feherty described Charles Howell III as the guy who “always gets three 1’s on the scorecard” and whose grown-out hair makes it seem like his “head is blowing bubbles.” And if they made Tim Clark wear purple, the Irish wit went, “he’d be a Smurf.” McCord suggested that if the oft-injured Scott Verplank took off his sweater, “there’d be nothing but duct tape underneath.”
McCord introduced fresh-faced Tom Lewis, 22, as someone “representing Queenwood Elementary School,” adding, “What is he, 12?” Feherty chimed in with, “I had to help him with his geometry homework last night. (So) he’s not going to graduate.”
All this was a wonderful backdrop to an event known for helicopters and limousines and real-estate marketing. Tuesday, the banter warmed up a 50-degree day.
“This is the oldest group on the golf course,” McCord said after Jay Haas, Bob Tway and McGinley teed off. “So if any of you are invalids, follow them.” Feherty added that such players are so old “they are lucky to remember to show up for their tee times.”
The envelope-pushing Feherty, though, chickened out when No. 1 Tiger Woods teed off. He had contemplated saying something about Woods’ new love, downhill ski racer Lindsey Vonn. But Feherty’s joke that Woods “finally has met someone who goes downhill faster than he did” never pierced the public air.
“I was this close,” Feherty, holding his index finger and thumb an inch apart, said later.
As it was, Woods teed off in the midst of this dialogue – Feherty: “He might be the No. 1 player in the world, but is he back yet?” McCord: “The shoes are different, the swing is different. Let me think. He could be back.”
First-tee scenes like this, of course, don’t play out at, say, the Masters, where the drawl goes, “Now driving, Tiger Woods.” Or at the Open Championship, where Ivor Robson has announced for about four decades while somehow not going to the bathroom. Robson is an institution who sounds like his shorts are too tight when his soprano voice rises multiple times while saying, “On the tee, from USA ... Ti-GAH WOOOdz.”
The Feherty-McCord act belongs on the 16th tee at TPC Scottsdale, where edgy noise is the norm. Or in a lounge somewhere because of attire as well as banter, for McCord sported the trademark handlebar mustache and Feherty was dressed like a blues singer, what with purple shirt, black vest and loud tie colored in yellow, red and two shades of blue. At any rate, in a sport that too often has a stuffy nose tilted up, more first tees could use such levity.
Feherty accurately figures he’d last about a nanosecond as Masters first-tee announcer, surmising that he’d get the hook right after the “Now driving” part. “It’d be like The Gong Show,” he said.
The casual, off-microphone outtakes between tee times Tuesday were just as good. Feherty recalled seeing his name on the 1989 Open Championship’s big yellow leaderboard misspelled as “Fartly,” a perfect error given his flatulence. Somebody clearly knew something. “I looked up there and thought, ‘There’s your Open champion right there,' ” Feherty said.
You can tell McCord is needling if his lips are moving. After considerable teasing once on the first tee of a Champions Tour practice round, McCord and his foursome looked for his drive for a while, only to realize that Handlebar had been so busy yapping on the tee that he forgot to hit.
After another break in the action Tuesday, McCord went on about the legendary John Jacobs – the California player, not the British teacher – saying, “J.J. once said he had the game figured out. When I asked his secret, he said, “I practice drunk and play sober.”
When McCord talked about driving hundreds of miles with his car jammed with golf equipment, Feherty interrupted with, “I’m that way with ammunition. If someone rear-ends me, it wouldn’t be good.”
Without question, the two laughed hardest when Feherty went into his off-camera rendition of the infamous John the Starter, for years the first-tee emcee at the Heineken Classic in Australia, in 1993-2001 at Vines Resort in Perth. To hear Feherty and Ian Baker-Finch, John the Starter is the all-time No. 1 entertainer on No. 1. And not just because John would unwittingly butcher names, like turning the Mechanic’s pronunciation from “Me-gel An-hel Him-e-neth” to “Ma-gool Ain-jel Jim-a-nez.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to a typically stinking hot day at the Vines,” John would say. “Players need to be careful at the first, with water right and two trees on the left. Vijay just hit it in there and made triple bogey. And be careful over there at the tea tree because the mosquitos will carry you away if you’re not careful.”
Sounds like someone the made-for-TV Tavistock Cup should import to its opening tee – by private jet, helicopter, limo, boat, whatever. Three is never a crowd when everybody is laughing.