IN THE ANNALS OF CALAMITOUS partnerships, Gary McCord and Augusta National ranks right up there with Wile E. Coyote and Acme Products, a bitter War of the Azaleas that spelled disaster from its very inception. McCord was witty and irreverent, a "smart ass from Southern California" as he puts it today. Augusta National was, well, Augusta National. The marriage never stood a chance. The end came on April 10, 1994, the fateful Sunday when McCord, perched in the CBS tower at 17, quipped on-air that the greens at Augusta were so slick that the club must have "used bikini wax" on them and that the bumpy terrain looked "suspiciously like body bags."
Oh, the horror. McCord was out. The dismissal, however, marked a new beginning for an aging Tour pro and broadcaster scrambling for credibility. McCord's expulsion made him an instant celebrity (even The Late Show called), and his signature conquistador mustache cemented his brand. Since then he's written three books, made a not-so-small fortune appearing at corporate outings, acted in a Hollywood film (Tin Cup) and become arguably the CBS golf team's most recognizable face. Who needs Augusta National? Not Gary McCord.
Billy Payne, Augusta's new chairman, has been billed as a guy who might shake things up. What if he invited you back to the telecast?
That thing is so old. No one gives a damn anymore. I don't give a damn. They don't give a damn. CBS doesn't give a damn. I have no willingness to go back, CBS doesn't have a willingness for me to go back and I know Augusta could care less because all those people who fired me are probably dead by now.
You really don't give a damn?
But it's the pinnacle for a golf broadcaster.
I know and I don't care. I get more exposure not being there. It's an annuity of exposure. If I go back, the exposure's gone, and the only exposure I could get would be bad because, "Oh, he's back. He's not saying anything. Is he tongue-tied?" I probably wouldn't say anything. I might, just to test them again, and that'd be the worst thing in the world.
You really believe that CBS doesn't give a damn? You're one of the network's most popular analysts.
What good would come of it? I'd be put back in a position to fail again. Why put a guy in that position? Why take the match, go up to the kerosene and go, "Watch this! Hold your ears -- BOOM!"
Before the Augusta brass agreed to give you a mike, they must have known exactly what they were getting with you, didn't they?
No question -- and I wanted to make sure they knew what they were getting. And that was my shtick. That's how I started the whole deal. You go in there and you say, "OK, I'm the first one who's an idiot and I'm the first one who doesn't have any pedigree whatsoever. I'm gonna go in there and be who I am: just an absolute idiot, and we're gonna talk about golf." So I found out I was fine at first and then over a succession of events, you know, they decided to put me in the penalty box.
Tom Watson, who wrote the infamous letter demanding your expulsion from Augusta, has said everything's cool with you guys. But did he have any business whatsoever writing that letter and threatening your livelihood?
For his own personal edification, he should have written the letter and tore it up. I wasn't real happy. I went to the Tour with it. I didn't think one player had the right to dictate, especially regarding a peer of his, and that he didn't like the way it sounded and this and that, and to get him kicked out, basically, of his job. That's just corrupt in my mind. It's kind of a character assassination. But, you know, all I did was try to take that, a negative, and turn it to a positive as fast as I could, and I think I did.
You still sound a little salty. Have you forgiven him?
Tom and I are, you know, we're friendly -- we say "Hi." We're not gonna go fishing or hunting together. And in actuality he did me a big favor, bottom line. I didn't see that at first. I see it now. So that's the forgiveness that I give.
He did you a favor?
I'm more famous. I mean, I was on the Leno show for one reason: I got kicked out of Augusta. Take the movie, Tin Cup [which McCord consulted on and played himself in]. The only reason [director] Ron Shelton included me is because he thought it was cool that I got kicked out of Augusta. First thing I asked him, "Why me?" He said, "You got booted out of Augusta. That's great."
So you don't miss the Masters at all? The buzz? The pageantry? The azaleas?
No. Everybody goes, "Oh, man" because I don't want to go. But I really don't.
Some of your lines are premeditated, called up from a catalog of material you store in your laptop, right?
The bikini wax line was premeditated.
It was. Two seconds before I went on I was reading People magazine, and it caught my attention because it was about the Golden Door [spa] in Escondido, Calif., where I lived. And they listed all these things, you know, electrolysis, tea-leafwraps, bikini wax. Uh-oh. Fast greens. That's Sunday at Augusta: fast greens.
You had to know that analogy might cause you a problem before you said it.
All of those lines might have gotten you in trouble.
It was probably an overflow from all the other stuff [that got me banned]. I remember one time I was sitting there on the 14th hole and the winds are blowing every ball --woooooosh
Always being the funny man -- the pro-ams, the dinners, the schmoozing. It has to be exhausting.
Totally. I'll give you an example -- what's this week? See, I have no idea where I was Monday. Wait, Monday I was in Dallas for a pro-am, got washed out. Week before -- get in an airplane after Hickory [the Greater Hickory Classic in North Carolina], we fly into Greensboro to pick up the regular Tour players, so there's like nine of us in this airplane. Fly over to Kansas City, get off the airplane --
What's your corporate outing rate?
[Pauses] Right now it's $30,000 to $35,000.
You worth it?
By most accounts you were and are a highly skilled player. How come you never broke through and won in all those years on the PGA Tour?
Your pal David Feherty shared a few tidbits about you with us. Tell us if they're true or false.
(1) You're a closet granola-muncher, always going for long solo hikes and eating tofu.
(2) You drink like a Girl Scout. It's pathetic. Two Coronas and you're anybody's.
(3) One word: Depends
There's more to this story, right?
(4) You're unbelievably anal. The Queer Eye guys wouldn't change a thing.
That's a little scary.
CBS replaced Lanny Wadkins with Nick Faldo quite suddenly and unexpectedly. How's Lanny holding up?
Because we usually hear rumors. There were shockwaves because we had -- as long as I've been with CBS they've never done it that way. You've always heard. You've always, not been consulted -- I would be the last person to be consulted -- but like [Jim] Nantz or somebody would be consulted. And we'd have an idea. This erupted out of left field. All of us are just now grabbing our head so it doesn't get detached, you know? Holy Jesus, if they can do it to him, they can really do it to peons like myself. So you become concerned with the whole process. Lanny will get through it. He's gonna play the Champions Tour full time, and he's pretty good now.
Why did it all happen so quickly?
I think Faldo was probably gonna go to NBC. I'm guessing the 17th hole and then to the tower when Johnny [Miller] wasn't there. And of course when another network, the only other network doing golf, hears about that, they think that might be a pretty good move, so all of a sudden they -- us -- become interested. This is all subjective, but that's why I think the decision was so fast.
How will Faldo fit in with your team?
Faldo will be more of a supportive role in our group because there's some serious verbal talent out there. When you start talking about [Peter] Oosterhuis, who knows all the stats, and Feherty on the ground and [Peter] Kostis with the golf swing, you've got all these pieces together and now you're gonna have to coordinate that guy around all the pieces. He's gonna have to learn, a lot like Steve Nash, how to give the ball away and make the team better.
Tiger Woods. Best ever?
No, not yet, Jack's 18 [majors] are the standard. But I will say this: I really understood what Jack was doing. I watched and I said, "Yeah, OK, I get that. I understand that shot. Every once in a while I can hit that shot." I don't have a clue with this kid. I knew it early. I'd go, "You've gotta be kidding me -- out of that lie he didthat
He's in a different galaxy.
You've said you weren't much of a class clown growing up. When did you break out of your shell?
So, you know, I started jerking around, being a little different. I started to develop a persona that could insulate me against what I was failing at and hopefully that stuff got me more to the forefront where I'd feel better about myself so I could play better. So I started creating this character along the way and that was kind of it. Everybody does it a different way. You might go get a fast car, might get three dogs, four marriages. Whatever you do, it's a defense against what you're doing [poorly].
Sounds pretty well orchestrated.
You're only playing a handful of events in 2007. You've still got all your responsibilities with CBS, but are you starting to unwind? You seem like the kind of guy who wouldn't be too happy sitting poolside in Scottsdale.
Are you gonna be that old guy who hangs out at the pro shop cracking jokes?
Yeah, I'll probably end up doing that. But I watch my peers, I watch the old guys. I ask them questions: "What are you doing now?" And I get the same answers: "Boy, I'd like to be out there again. I'm bored to death." It's scary. I played with Arnold [Palmer] in his last competitive round and you could see that at 77 he wants to play but he can't hit the shots to make the people go ooh and aah. That kills him. But if he's done, he can never do it again and that void is really scary for a guy who's been there on stage the whole time and done what he's done.
Boy, that's a hell of a void.
Spank those white boys:
Picture on the milk cartons:
Sucking like a chest wound:
He's got to change his underwear:
Beat it like a rented mule:
Just a Range Ball in a Box of Titleists