How long until David Feherty goes from The Golf Channel to The Tonight Show?

There is no explanation.

It just doesn't seem possible.

Who would ever buy this incredible story?

No, I'm not talking about Manti Te'o's fake girlfriend actually being a fake boyfriend.

I'm talking about the fact that the coolest, hippest, funniest man on TV has a show on – wait for it – The Golf Channel.

You heard me … The Golf Channel right here in the golf mecca otherwise known as Orlando.

I know, I know, this is sort of like saying the most symphonic orchestra in the world is actually the house band at the Yee Haw Junction Holiday Inn Select. But it's true. David Feherty is, as the New York Times once wrote, is "a cross between Oprah Winfrey and Johnny Carson."

You don't expect trendy, hip and edgy on a channel whose demographic is old, stodgy and conservative. But Feherty, his sport's clown prince of common sense, has made the Golf Channel cooler than other side of Stuart Scott's pillow. He's funnier than Leno and Letterman. He's Jon Stewart in Footjoys with a cool accent more Irish than a triple shot of Bushmills. If Feherty is not a late-night talk show host within three years, it'll be the biggest mistake network TV has made since the XFL.

"David just tells it like it is," Scottish golfing legend Sandy Lyle said Wednesday night after appearing on the "Feherty Live" broadcast at the Orlando Hard Rock. "Sometimes, he says some things that get him in trouble, but he always says things where you can't stop laughing through the tears."

More than 1,200 people packed into the Hard Rock to watch the live show Wednesday, which served as a kickoff to the Golf Channel's third season of "Feherty." The season premier officially kicks off on Monday, Feb. 25 at 10 p.m. with a slew of interviews that will include sometimes prickly sporting legends such as Bob Knight and Bill Russell.

But somehow, some way, Feherty softens up even the most irascible interviewees. He gets guests other broadcasters can't and asks questions other broadcasters won't. Maybe it's because golf is the great ambassador; a sport that reaches across party and racial lines and attracts everyone from NBA superstars to U.S. presidents.

Feherty, a former PGA and European Tour player of some renown, gets his foot in the door with golf and then kicks it open by disarming his guests with humor. The aloof Russell, for instance, rarely does interviews, but agreed to sit down with Feherty in what Feherty called "an out-of-body experience and one of the highlights of my life."

And who else but Feherty could get away with asking Knight why he has been such "(bleeping)" jackass throughout his career? Not only did Knight answer the question candidly, he went out on the driving range with Feherty for some golf-swing instruction and then actually ended up giving Feherty some chair-throwing instruction.

The thing about Feherty is he appeals to everyone. Like Knight, he is a political conservative and a gun aficionado, but he's had Bill Clinton on his show and calls the former president a "great, great American." Feherty asked Clinton how -- when he was president -- did he decide when the time was right to take military action and to give the command to bomb the enemy." Clinton poignantly told Feherty that he always asked one question of himself before making such a monumental decision: "Can I kill them tomorrow?"

"Not that he wouldn't kill them," Feherty explained. "He just did so with great reluctance and as a last resort. … You might not agree with his politics, but you cannot dislike Bill Clinton as a man. Any person that dislikes Bill Clinton, I don't like that person."

Maybe another reason Feherty gets people to open up is because he is not afraid to admit that he, too, is flawed. He often speaks of his battle with alcoholism and depression and cracks that his guests feel sorry for him because "I'm such a screw-up."

More likely, his guests respect him because he is not afraid to speak his mind. Like the time he opened up to a reporter from Golf Magazine about his depression when the subject of actor Tom Cruise came up. Cruise is a famous Scientologist who has said that medication and psychotherapy are useless and that physical exercise is the best remedy for depression.

Replied Feherty: "Actually, some sort of exercise would have helped me. If I kicked the (bleep) out of Tom Cruise, I'd feel a lot better about myself."

How do you not love this guy?

He's turned the Golf Channel into Comedy Central.

Like Bill Murray in "Caddyshack," he's humanized and humorized a country-club sport.

In fact, he's much like Murray's character in the transcendent golf movie.

"A Cinderella story.

Outta nowhere."

mbianchi@orlandosentinel.com

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