MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) — The Americans wasted no time taking one from Europeans.
Golf funny man David Feherty said he'll be rooting for the U.S. when the Ryder Cup tees off Friday morning. Never mind that Feherty is from Northern Ireland, played for Europe at the 1991 Ryder Cup and still counts Sam Torrance as his "BFF."
"To be honest, I've been leaning in that direction for quite a while now," Feherty said Tuesday during a conference call. "Since my first visit to Iraq back in 2006."
Feherty first announced his choice Monday night during the taping for his "Feherty Live" Ryder Cup special. The show will air on the Golf Channel on Wednesday, two days before the Ryder Cup begins at Medinah Country Club.
Feherty played most of his career in Europe, and was a five-time winner there. He was captain of the Irish team that won the Dunhill Cup in 1990, and went 1-1-1 in Ryder Cup play the next year. But he's lived in the United States for the last 15 years, working for CBS Sports and the Golf Channel, and his work with U.S. troops had a profound effect on him.
"That was the instant I knew I had to be an American. I had wanted to be one for a while, but my wife had always wanted to be married to an Irishman and I wasn't going to win that argument," Feherty cracked. "She knew things had changed for me when I came back."
Feherty became a U.S. citizen in 2010. He still visits the Middle East to help boost morale of the troops, and he started a foundation — Troops First — that raises money for wounded soldiers. He also makes appearances on behalf of other charities that support the military.
"Since 1776, it's been the military that have had our backs in this country and ensured our freedom," Feherty said. "So the least we can do it have their backs when they come home, especially when they come home injured."
Despite his affection for his adopted country, backing the Americans over Europe in the Ryder Cup wasn't an easy choice for Feherty.
But it sure made for great entertainment. Feherty's divided loyalties made for a central theme of the "Feherty Live" special, with posters featuring him looking conflicted as he held U.S. and European flags. He came on stage to start the show wearing a suit with the yellow stars and blue background of the European flag on one side, the red-and-white stripes of the U.S. on the other. Fans got scarves featuring the flags of both countries.
Even the popcorn tubs were evenly split, with blue stripes on one side, red stripes on the other.
"I don't know" who to pick, Feherty said before the choice. "I've got Sam Torrance here who will kill me if I say the Americans."
That's a little extreme.
But not by much.
"He'll get a smack from me," agreed Torrance.
Finally, at the end of the hour-long show, which featured Michael Phelps' first meeting with his idol, Michael Jordan, as well as interviews with Torrance and former U.S. Ryder Cup captains Paul Azinger and Lanny Wadkins, Feherty announced his choice. The crowd of almost 900 people whooped and hollered, serenading Feherty with chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!"
Feherty said Tuesday he's already gotten some grief from Torrance, and expects there will be more to come from his other European friends as the week goes on.
But that's OK. He's American, and proud of it.
"I'll take plenty of flak for it," he said. "But hey, Americans take flack. We take it pretty well."