"I'm the best there is. When I wake up in the morning, I piss excellence." Ferrell's character in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
As a golfer, Will Ferrell does not piss excellence. He pisses bogeys. And three-putts. And Newcastle Brown Ale. No matter. His plan: Hone his game, chuck his $20-million-per-movie gig, and make a run at Q-School. Hey, how hard can it be to drop 30 strokes?
"I'm currently 127,000th in the world," he says with a puff of his chest on the first tee of Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club, a wide-open Tom Lehman design that twists through a wildlife reserve in Mission Viejo, Calif. "But Tiger can hear my footsteps. He knows I'm coming for him. This is my secret weapon." Ferrell cradles his beloved persimmon 4-wood, with a sweet spot the size of a postage stamp. "She's a bee-yoot. I keep her in the bag to psyche out my opponents. Makes 'em think I'm 87 years old. It's worth $30,000. This baby is going in the Smithsonian."
Hey, Will, what's your power secret?
"Every morning I put a half cup of steroids into my Sanka. And I grip the club as hard as I possibly can, until I can see the whites of my knuckles."
What about first-tee jitters?
"Simple. Before my opening drive, I throw up for two minutes in the bushes." Manly squint. "That calms me right down."
A round of golf with Will Ferrell feels a little like being in a Will Ferrell golf movie, with the star doing what he does best: playing an oblivious tool of a white guy. And a few jitters are understandable as he sets to tee off at high noon on a hot day in Orange County. There's money on the line. (Not to mention a signpost warning: BEWARE OF MOUNTAIN LIONS.) Ferrell, 40, who grew up in nearby Irvine, has gathered seven Delta Tau Delta frat brothers from his days at the University of Southern California. Just your everyday eight-some. ("It really speeds up play," he says.) The game: skins, $300 per hole, to be donated in the winners' names to Cancer for College, which finances scholarships for cancer survivors.
In addition to spit-polishing his swing for the Tour, Ferrell is here to spotlight the charity's annual golf outing on Sept. 28. Fellow frat brother Craig Pollard, 39, founded the charity in 1993 after twice battling Hodgkin's disease. While he remains in remission, last year Pollard had both feet amputated six inches above the ankle after an aggressive infection led to circulatory problems. Still, he walks spryly on prosthetic limbs constructed of titanium, steel and carbon fiber, and can still break 90, which his "big-shot movie-star friend" has never done, he reminds.
"I get asked to do a lot," Ferrell says. "But this is special. It's like a mom-and-pop charity. The money goes right to people who need it, people who can't afford college because they're fighting for their life. And it's hard to say no to Craig, considering everything he's been through. Of course, I'm gonna keep whatever I win today, in case the acting thing doesn't work out. Last year, I lost all the donations playing roulette. Hey, I was trying to double it."
Ferrell is taller and lankier than you'd expect. And hairier. With his shaggy red 'fro (grown for the upcoming basketball film Semi-Pro) and gray-flecked beard, he looks a little like the Blue Oyster Cult band member he played in his famous "More Cowbell!" Saturday Night Live skit. He hasn't swung a club in months, but at 6'3" he's a natural athlete (he was MVP of his high school football team). He makes consistent contact, hates long irons, and if he played more could shoot in the 80s, easy. He lashes a high, handsy fade 240 yards down the right side of Arroyo Trabuco's generous first fairway.