KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – It was 21 years ago, but there isn’t a part of him that doesn’t feel as if it were yesterday.
Most notably, David Feherty remembers the arm coming up and around his neck and the hug that got him through the crowd. A woman marshal was questioning why Feherty needed to get onto the tee at the par-3 17th, at which time the man from Northern Ireland was saved by American Payne Stewart.
“He told the marshal, ‘I’d like to keep him off the tee, but he’s playing this match,’“ Feherty said. “I can still smell the Red Man (tobacco).”
Though he’s regarded by today’s generation as a CBS funnyman – the wise-cracking, quick-witted on-course reporter – Feherty in 1991 was a serious player – so much so that he had qualified for the European Ryder Cup team. Being a master at self-deprecation, Feherty sells himself short as a player.
In May of 1991 he had won for the fourth time on the European PGA Tour, so he wasn’t out of his element at the Ocean Course that fall, and as he stood in the scoring area Friday and watched the conclusion of Round 2 of this 94th PGA Championship, Feherty reflected on a week that he embraces.
Those three days of competition, he said, remain “the highlight of my career,” and while he knows that while many of the memories that envelope that Ryder Cup focus on the contentiousness, Feherty doesn’t fall in line. “I never saw it. I just remember how I had goosebumps for three days.”
Feherty played in two team matches alongside Sam Torrance (a halve and a loss), but it’s his singles contest that he’ll forever cherish. Sent out first against Stewart, Feherty remembers shaking over his opening tee shot, but somehow he managed to build a comfortable lead against the reigning U.S. Open champ.
With the lead slipping away, Feherty tried to fight to the tee at 17, but needed Stewart’s help. He was still shaking when he watched Stewart rip a 3-wood onto the green at the brutal par 3, set up at about 225 yards. When it came time to hit, Feherty laughed. He’s pretty sure he closed his eyes he was so scared and when he opened them his ball was en route to the green and Feherty caught sight of the fear in European captain Bernard Gallacher’s face.
“I think he was the only one who had less confidence in me than me,” Feherty said.
Feherty closed out Stewart at that demanding hole, then fell back to watch 10 other matches unfold. History is cemented forever – it went down to the final match and when Bernhard Langer missed a short putt against Hale Irwin, the Americans had survived by the slimmest of margins, 14 1/2-13 1/2.
The matches are remembered for Bernhard Langer agonizing to the missed putt, Mark Calcavecchia escaping to the beach in tears after collapsing against Colin Montgomerie, American players charging into the surf to celebrate.
Feherty remembers “the greatest party ever,” one in which Europeans and Americans joined together for a night of revelry.