Gary McCord's voice preceded him into the Wedgewood Room of the
Phoenix Country Club on Tuesday of last week, its sly cackle
cutting a swath through the guests crowding into the room. ``How
quiet was the gallery?'' McCord repeated. ``So quiet you could
have heard a lung collapse.'' The puckish CBS golf commentator
rounded a table, tugged on his handlebar mustache and adjusted
his silver belt buckle.
``Where'd you buy that belt?'' asked PGA veteran Howard Twitty.
``Why?'' said McCord. ``You like it?''
``No, it's ugly,'' twitted Twitty. ``I was just wondering where
not to go.''
For McCord, Augusta was where not to go last week. He had been
banned from the Masters this year--and for who knows how long--
for the crime of attempted humor during the telecast of last
year's tournament. He said the putting surfaces were so slick
because ``they don't cut the greens here at Augusta, they use
bikini wax.'' He said the lumpy terrain looked like ``body bags.''
``Blasphemy!'' cried the masters of the Masters. Which is why
last week McCord was back home in Arizona working the lunch
crowd in the Wedgewood Room instead of in Georgia working the
mike at the 17th green. ``I had another option,'' he revealed to
a reporter. ``I considered flying to New Zealand and going
bungee jumping stark naked except for a green Masters cap.''
For the past nine years the part-time Tour pro had spent Masters
Tuesday checking out course conditions, talking up golfers and
writing wisecracks he could use during the telecast. This time
around, McCord analyzed the swing of a Phoenix sportscaster
(``Dismembered body parts moving in an undignified manner'')
then headed for the Wedgewood Room to attend a luncheon for the
Santa Claus Classic, a local charity golf event he helped start
and still helps fund. On Tuesday night he plugged his laptop
into a wall jack and careered down the information superhighway.
As host of a new weekly chat show on America Online, McCord was
pelted with dozens of questions. Among them:
Q: Who got the crazy notion not to let you cover the Masters?
A: Hannibal Lecter, that goof!
Q: For what it's worth, most golfers I know will miss your
coverage of the Masters. Golf is sport, and sport is
entertaining. You are entertaining.
A: Thanks, Mom!
The rest of the week McCord hid out. He and his wife, Diane,
left Wednesday for an unnamed location that had ``no phone, no
electricity, no people.'' He returned home on Saturday--the only
day he actually caught the Masters on TV--and spent Sunday on a
plane to Florida, where he was scheduled to play in an outing at
Amelia Island on Monday.
All this might never have happened if McCord didn't strive to
avoid the usual cliches in his telecasts. ``I hate to repeat
lines, to say the same damned thing,'' he says. ``I try to
rewrite cliches and make what I say sound fresh.'' While
skimming an issue of People magazine during last year's Masters,
McCord spun out into his own weird orbit: ``These greens are so
fast they use Nair on them . . . they use electrolysis on them .
. . they use bikini wax on them. . . .'' He liked bikini wax
best. ``I thought it would be cutesy,'' he recalls. ``I thought
I'd say it, be out and gone.''
McCord was chewed out by CBS golf producer Frank Chirkinian, who
thought the line was tasteless, but nothing much more happened
until McCord showed up to broadcast the Heritage Classic in
Hilton Head, S.C., the following week. He had been out on the
putting green with Tom Watson. ``I congratulated Tom on how well
he'd been playing,'' McCord says. ``We had a pleasant talk.''
When McCord got back to the production truck, Chirkinian thrust
a letter at him. ``You'd better read this,'' said Chirkinian.
``Watson just gave it to me.'' The handwritten note demanded
that McCord be fired and branded him ``the Howard Stern of TV
McCord can forgive Watson for getting his funnymen confused.
Though McCord listens to Stern on occasion, his anarchistic
frivolousness derives more from George Carlin, Alfred E. Neuman
and Japanese sci-fi films in which fire- belching dragons run
amok in cardboard metropolises. ``What I said at the Masters
wasn't vituperative enough to get on Howard's show,'' McCord
protests. ``It wasn't vituperative enough to get kicked off
But he can't forgive Watson for backstabbing. ``I wish Tom had
come to me first,'' says McCord. ``He could have said, `Gary, I
don't like what you're doing. You're an idiot, a low-life---- .'
I would have been happy to talk to him. Then if he wanted to
write a letter, fine. I still might have been ticked off, but at
least he'd have shown me some common courtesy.''
As it turned out, Watson had also fired off a letter to Masters
chairman Jack Stephens. And as we all know, Watson's pen proved
mightier than McCord. In a late summer statement explaining why
McCord was being bounced from the broadcast, Stephens called the
announcer's gibes ``distasteful.'' CBS's defense didn't even
qualify as lukewarm. Rather than risk losing one of its last
marquee events, the network meekly acquiesced.
McCord and Watson didn't cross paths again until February, when
the accused confronted his accuser in Pebble Beach at the AT&T
National Pro-Am. ``We had a heated conversation for five
minutes,'' McCord reports. ``I got my point across, and he got
his. I feel I don't have to duck him now, and he doesn't have to
duck me.'' Was there much screaming? ``Golfers don't scream,''
says McCord. ``Golfers just adjust the pleats in their pants and
go from there. That's about as antagonistic as we get.''
The last sportscaster to appear on the Masters blacklist was
Jack Whitaker. It has been 29 years since he made the
unforgivable error of calling surging galleries during the 1966
playoff a ``mob.'' Clifford Roberts, the late Masters chairman,
dumped Whitaker by tut-tutting, ``We don't have mobs at
Augusta.'' Whitaker was the first person McCord called after
learning of his own banishment. ``Jack actually sounded a little
ticked,'' recalls McCord. ``Until I got the boot, he had been in
the world's most exclusive club.''
Whitaker's banishment from Augusta lasted four years. ``I assume
that what I did is viewed as something short of manslaughter,''
says McCord. ``It's a misdemeanor, not a felony. With good
behavior I may be out on parole in a couple of years.''
Has McCord ruled out an insanity plea? ``Too easy,'' he says,
flashing a grin that's broad and fishy and diabolical. ``Way too