On the record with Mike Tirico
DETROIT - Who said David Feherty is the funniest man in golf?
Behind that steely professionalism in front of the camera, ABC golf analyst Mike Tirico can turn on the laughs, too.
Tirico, who with Curtis Strange forms the longest running golf duo in TV today, charmed hundreds of golfers at the Golf Association of Michigan's annual meeting at the Detroit Golf Club in early May with his sense of humor, insight into the game and his pride in his current home state.
Tirico, who has lived in Ann Arbor since 1995, says he loves Michigan, even as others in the industry question why he's the only golf celebrity not living in the warm weather meccas of Southern California, Florida or Arizona.
Tirico, who first covered golf in 1995 for ESPN, joined ABC's golf coverage in 1996 and now is one of the station's top sports personalities, covering the PGA Tour, the NBA and college football. The Syracuse grad settled in Ann Arbor after marrying a former U-M basketball player. He and his wife, Debbie, have two children.
"I didn't appreciate what a great sports area this was until I came here," he said. "Now, if the Detroit Lions ever make the Super Bowl, this city will be painted Honolulu Blue. But we all that know that won't happen."
And the laughter began.
"And if the Detroit Tigers ever get to .500, we won't be able to get a seat in Comerica Park," Tirico continued, as he chastised two of Detroit's most beloved, yet most disenchanted, sports franchises.
He said he's often amazed at how much Michiganders love their golf, despite such a short, and often weather-challenged, season. He said he rarely gets a chance to play at his home club, Barton Hills Country Club in Ann Arbor, where he carries a 14 handicap.
"There are great golf fans in Michigan," said Tirico, who earned an Emmy nomination as top host/play-by-play TV analyst in 2001. "As I travel the country, I stick my chest out with pride (about golf in Michigan). It's easy to love golf in Florida. Here you have to really love it (to
More laughs. Then he went on to poke fun at golfers for their silly antics on and off the course.
"The Golf Channel is the silliest notion on the planet," he said. "We all sit there and think people can really teach us to hit it farther. By the time we've watched for three hours, we'll be standing on one foot. Everybody contradicts what the last person just said.
"If you watch past midnight, you'll have so many contraptions strapped to your body."
That brought more chuckles. But he also got serious to talk about opening up the gates of prestigious clubs like the Detroit Golf Club, one of Detroit's oldest, to help juniors take up the game.
"We need to figure out how, as a group, we can volunteer our time (to the game)," he said. "Maybe you work at an amateur event, or you can donate those old clubs or those golf shoes. How can this club impact the growth of the game?"
He also sounded off on the state of golf. Here's an "Open Mike" on some pressing issues:
With Phil Mickelson's historic win at the Masters, Tirico now says Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington (cousin of Lions QB Joey Harrington) are the two best players without a major. Also, if he could hang out with one player in the world, Tirico said Clarke is his man. "He's as fun as the summer days are long."
Mickelson vs. Tiger Woods: Tirico said Mickelson is the early "pace setter for player of the year," which could be just what Tiger needs for motivation. "Nothing would inspire Tiger more," he said. "Deep down, these are two guys who don't like each other very much. It would be great for golf to see them go head to head (all summer long). Golf needs that."
Who's the worst interview? Colin Montgomery, of course. "He is so miserable around the media," Tirico said. "He sticks out like a sore thumb when the other 97 percent (of golfers) are so nice."
He said golfers are the best athletes to cover. "They are, by far, the most educated, thoughtful, and respectful of any of the other pro athletes," he said.
After the speech, Tirico said Michelle Wie's performance at the Sony Open in Hawaii, where she missed the cut by one shot, is "one of the best performances in sports this year."
She is ahead of the curve for her age," he said. "It's amazing how she handles the things around her."
On a closing note, let's not forget that little thing called the Ryder Cup, coming to Oakland Hills Country Club in September. Tirico wouldn't go so far as to say that the Americans are desperate for victory, but they are motivated. "After September 11, that event has added to the importance (of winning the Cup for America) to every individual," Tirico said.
What's in the Bag
Driver: TaylorMade driver 360 series
Woods: TaylorMade 3-wood 200 series
Irons: Nike pro combos 3-SW
Wedges: Three Titleist wedges (52, 56, 60 degree).
Putter: Scotty Cameron.
May 13, 2004