Time flies when you’re having fun, so it is no surprise that David Feherty is surprised he already is set to premiere a seventh season of his eponymous Golf Channel interview show.
“It’s been a blast, it really has,” he said during a promotional visit to New York in advance of Monday night’s first of a two-parter with Phil Mickelson. “I can’t believe it’s lasted as long as it has.”
It has thanks to the force of his personality, combined with the high degree of trust he has in the golf community and his popularity among golf fans.
That is no easy task for a man who publicly has discussed his battles with alcoholism and depression, among other challenges, but who has managed to endure as one of the most quick-witted commentators in sports television.
Mike Tirico, one of Feherty’s NBC golf colleagues, said he marvels in particular at how he can translate that within the complicated task of on-course reporter.
“I haven’t seen anybody who combines all of that – personality, intelligence, quick-wittedness, able to say a lot in very few words – without being in position where it is easy to do a show, sitting on your (expletive) in a cool (broadcast) booth. There’s no one like him.”
That is evident in the broad array of guests who have appeared on his interview show, including chats with the four most recent United States presidents before, during or after their administrations.
Also on the list: Bill Russell, Charles Barkley, Larry David, Nick Saban and Bob Knight. Oh, and there have been golfers, too, including Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson and Annika Sorenstam.
Feherty is not aware of anyone flatly turning him down – although the Mickelson interview took two or three years to arrange. The glaring golf omission on his list is Tiger Woods, with whom he has a good relationship.
So why no Tiger? “I just want him to be in the right place,” Feherty said. “I don’t want to do the show with him where he feels like he has to give pat answers. I don’t want that show. I want him to be the kid that I know.”
Like everyone else in golf, Feherty often is asked whether he thinks Woods might make it back to competitive status someday.
“The only mistakes I’ve ever made about Tiger were when I underestimated him,” Feherty said. “If he can get healthy, his body healthy, I think he can get his mind healthy as well.
“I miss him out there. It was pretty freakin’ amazing. I never took it for granted that I was there. I saw him win something like 50, 60 times. It was a special time to be in golf. I don’t think we’ll see that again. But I think he can win again. I do.”
Feherty said the show has been more work than he expected, primarily because he travels to interview guests rather than them coming to him. The Mickelson interview was conducted in San Diego.
Others on his 2017 interview roster include former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeezza Rice and actor Matthew McConaughey.
Frequently people who know his guests in other contexts are surprised at how relaxed they are around him, with Saban, the famously grouchy Alabama football coach, a prime example.
Feherty credited the dynamic to a combination of golf itself and his approach to the interviews.
“I think golf sort of reveals your character in a lot of ways,” he said. “And I’m asking questions from a position of weakness. I have ‘guests’ on my show, unapologetically. They’re not victims. I’m not there to skewer anybody.
“I’m not going to ask President Clinton any Monica Lewinsky questions, same as I wouldn’t ask Tiger anything about his private life. I think that’s more than adequately been covered by pretty much everybody else.
“But I think golf is an ideal medium because it humbles everybody and it gives them the opportunity to be self-deprecating.”
Feherty lists Watson, Clinton and George W. Bush among his favorite interviews.
“But if I had to pick one, it might have been Russell, a most extraordinary man,” he said. “I shook his hand and felt a kind of warmth, an electricity that I’ve only felt once before – well, twice actually – with Arnold and with Nelson Mandela. I know that seems a little weird, but he just had so much dignity and graciousness.
“For someone who grew up in segregation and did what he did, just for me to be around him (was memorable). I still text him. And he kicked my ---- in a chipping contest.”
Feherty promised the Mickelson interview will be a hit among golf fans.
“The inside of his head is like something you’d see in the chocolate factory,” Feherty said after searching for a description that implied complex machinery geared toward a happy outcome.
“It’s unbelievable how analytical he is and the tiny increments he breaks things down into. I had no idea, and I’ve been watching him for 20 years on the golf course. I had no idea he had that kind of wood burning in there . . . It’s like talking a different language, almost. He’s unbelievably complicated.”