Rory McIlroy and David Feherty are a pair of Northern Irishmen who have quickly moved beyond their homeland to answer the call to greatness of golf’s biggest scene. While McIlroy’s run was virtually flawless, Feherty had to pedal through a relatively modest career on the European Tour until he rose to prominence as a television analyst. From there, he mined an endless collection of quirky quips and quips to turn him into one of the game’s most dynamic personalities.
Both men love America. McIlroy established his preference for the PGA Tour even before winning the first of his four major titles, all at the age of 25. His compatriot received the 2012 Outstanding Civilian Service Award for years of tireless contributions to those who served in the US military. . Feherty would be the last guy you’d expect to leave a comfortable job at a big network for a similar position with LIV Golf, which avoids a complete lack of credibility with alarming sums of money from perhaps the most reviled country on earth. Apparently some patriots are more vulnerable than others.
Few are more vulnerable than McIlroy. His quest for a fifth Major crown dissolved in languid frustration at the British Open last Sunday, upended by Cameron Smith’s brilliant finishing kick and repeated failure to capitalize on valuable scoring opportunities. McIlroy has gone this route many times before. It has never been so bumpy. “It’s hard to win a championship with 13 clubs in your bag,” NBC senior analyst Paul Azinger said of the uncooperative putter that left the 54-hole co-leader alone in third.
“Of all those near misses that we’ve been talking about,” added teammate Dan Hicks, “can there be one that hurts more than that? I would say absolutely not.
McIlroy disguised his angst with another dose of the gold-medal sportsmanship that made him so beloved: “I got beaten by the best player this week,” he assessed. “Shooting 64 and winning an open championship at St. Andrews is a hell of a performance, and hats off to Cam.” Gracious, to be sure, but it was the raucous support from the Old Course that pressed on all weekend that must have made this defeat exceptionally difficult to reconcile. McIlroy was the overwhelming crowd favorite, driven by roars once reserved for Tiger Woods. The vocal reverberations testified not only that the princely prodigy went eight years without claiming another major, but the frontline leadership role McIlroy assumed in speaking out against LIV Golf and expressing unquestioning loyalty to a tour that brought him made very, very rich and only a little less famous.
Win or lose, some superstars are much easier to like than others.
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In 2011, Feherty’s popularity earned him his own prime-time talk show, which Golf Channel aired through 2020. It received mostly positive reviews over its 10 seasons and sparked a series of live performances on stage to coincide with some of America’s biggest sporting events. He wrote a column for Golf magazine, authored four books that made the New York Times bestseller list, and made it clear that his political sensibilities were largely Republican in nature, grounded in worship. of his country and a public hatred for those who tried to deprive him of his precious freedoms.
All the while, Feherty wore her heart on her sleeve. A red, white and blue. “From my own experience visiting troops in the Middle East,” he said in 2009, “I can tell you this: If you give an American soldier a gun with two bullets in it and he ends up in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Osama bin Laden, chances are Pelosi will be shot twice, and Reid and bin Laden will be strangled to death.
In all contexts, some defections are more difficult to explain than others. As a golf announcer, Feherty has become considerably more docile in recent years. His incomparable wit has all but disappeared, humorous references no longer being part of his on-air repertoire. The death of his 29-year-old son Shey from a drug overdose in 2017 and the subsequent cancellation of his Golf Channel show are attributed by insiders as the main causes of Feherty’s less dynamic disposition on the shows. from NBC. When the New York Post broke the news of his move to LIV Golf yesterday, another well-placed source said the network would be happy to offload his contract.
The lack of character that made Feherty so successful could be symptomatic of a disaffection, especially after a 25-year career. With that in mind, why would a man about to turn 64 attempt the proverbial fresh start with an unproven product frequently criticized for its Saudi connections and questionable intentions? A league that claims a streaming option (YouTube) as its primary broadcast partner and failed to even attract 100,000 viewers for its final round coverage in Portland earlier this month?
As it becomes increasingly clear that some guys will abandon all other career factors in favor of money, Feherty’s political conscience and moral compass make his departure from NBC a shock. Was he told in advance that his contract would not be renewed? Does that justify a decision that goes against everything he seemed to stand for? Does he think his affiliation with LIV Golf will revive his Q rating, increase his off-course market value, or lead to eternal happiness?
An unwavering sense of appreciation and five bucks will buy you a cup of coffee these days. If David Feherty can jump ship, anyone can, which only legitimizes speculation that Cam Smith and his Claret Jug are among the next group of decorated players to dive into the sea of Saudi solvency. Long relished for his reputation as golf’s most lovable comedian, despite his personality makeover, Feherty is more valuable to the renegade faction than any dozen tour pros no one has ever heard of.
NBC may not miss it, but a lot of people will. You can bet your bottom dollar that McIlroy isn’t laughing.
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