FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 20th, 2013
AN INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL PHELPS, HANK HANEY AND DAVID FEHERTY
London Olympics, Michael announced his retirement from swimming and said he was going to focus on the next chapter of his career, which was learning to play better golf while doing so on some of the best courses in the world. Sounded like a great formula for the Haney Project and he agreed he would pursue his passion for golf for which we are currently on location. Michael has a passion for golf and agreed partly in front of Golf Channel cameras and under the eye of renowned swing coach Hank Haney, over the course of the series, viewers will be able to follow Michael’s progress and see how he improves his game and like some of his predecessors that have been on the series such as Charles Barkley, Ray Romano, Rush Limbaugh and Adam Levine.
Can you share with us where this love of golf came from and why did you choose golf as your next pursuit in the Haney Project for that matter?
MICHAEL PHELPS: One of the craziest thing was ‑‑ when I got my first set of golf clubs, I wanted to do it just so give myself kind of something away from the pool that doesn’t have to be always sort of focused around swimming.
I have friends that played in high school and played in college and I was able to go out with them, and at that point I was like, wow, maybe I’ll just quit swimming and start golfing. But then we quickly decided that probably wasn’t the best idea.
So I decided to just do it as a hobby. Took about a year off after the Olympics to really focus on what I had to do there. And then sort of being able to travel the world and play some of the best golf courses and learn from the greatest golf coach, I think it’s just like ‑‑ for me it’s a cool opportunity of being able to learn a game that’s so challenging.
And it is probably one of the most humbling things I’ve ever done in my entire life; to be able to learn from the best and see some of the best courses, it was something that really interested me.
I guess it was right around New Year’s where I really started falling even more in love with the sport and it’s allowed me to I think really since then be able to be more consistent than I was but not as consistent as I want to be.
So there is still something that is keeping me hungry, and I do have a goal in this sport, and I’m going to do everything that I can to hopefully achieve that.
THE MODERATOR: Hank, tell us what you first saw when you first got together, I’m sure you had to look at his as a golfer, not the most decorated Olympian of all time. What was your take and your plan for making him better?
HANK HANEY: Obviously Michael is an incredible athlete, and as most unbelievable athletes see, translating it into golf is a little bit harder than it looks. But obviously he’s got a tremendous amount of potential. Just his size and the length of his arms and his height, those give him such an advantage in the game, because so much of golf is distance, it’s power and how far you can hit the golf ball.
So when I looked at Michael, like most people would say, wow, he’s got a lot of potential for the game of golf. But the thing about potential in golf, it’s really directly related to your clubhead speed and that means that anyone with a lot of potential when they are first starting is going to be wild with their shots and that just kind of goes with the territory. But I knew that he was raw as a golfer, but had incredible potential, and I was just looking forward to helping him.
The thing that I think gives him a big advantage is that he knows the process, he’s patient with the process. He always talks about just taking little baby steps and he’s had great coaching through his career, so he knows what it’s like to be coached. So I felt like, you know what, this is going to be a dream student for me.
THE MODERATOR: Michael also with his love of golf, he’s got his foundation, he’s got his golf tournament, so more than just him, trying to improve his own game, he’s trying to help grow the game, as well.
Q. What is the one thing that you hope that Hank can help you with, and secondly, as a world‑class athlete, is it at times a bit humbling and a bit frustrating not being able to master another sport?
MICHAEL PHELPS: I mean, I don’t think there’s just one thing that I’m going to learn in the sport. I think there’s too much for me to learn in the sport. For an example, I just recently partnered with PING and I was down sort of trying to find the right shaft for me.
I was literally like they were twisting each shaft in and out of every club and we were trying to figure out what the best one was for me and my speed and my swing, and I learned that there’s like 50 or 60 different shafts that they can put on a club.
So I’m learning something different every day about the sport, and you know, it’s a tough sport, and like I said, it’s a very challenging sport. And this is the most humbling sport. I’m used to being able to pick up something and just ‑‑ I don’t want to say it coming naturally but it comes a lot easier than what golf has come thus far.
I think that’s part of the challenge why I’m so excited to do it, because I don’t like to fail in anything that I do, and it will be a struggle to be able to reach the point that I wanted to reach, but it’s something that I want bad enough, and I think if you want something bad enough, there’s nothing standing in your way of getting it.
Q . Why golf? How difficult was it?
MICHAEL PHELPS: It was something I was interested in for a long time. Obviously watching people like Tiger and Phil and now watching some of the younger guys come up in the sport, it’s just interesting to me to see so many different styles and see so many incredible things that these guys are doing all over the world on different courses.
In other sports, I could pick up a basketball and shoot a basketball. I could pick up a lacrosse stick and be fine. I can play baseball. I can play soccer. Like I feel like I can participate in a lot of other sports but I think in the sport of golf, there are so many different levels.
I have friends who play as a scratch golfer, and for me it would be exciting to be able to get down to where I could compete with them. So it’s a challenge for me, and it’s something that, like I said, keeps me ‑‑ sure, it’s not like I can go out and play a perfect round and hit all good shots, but that’s what really keeps me coming back to try to reach that point.
I’m sure it’s very challenging and who knows if it’s possible to hit every perfect shot in a round. But it’s obviously something that I am learning and hopefully I can go out and enjoy the game even more than I already have.
Q. From an athletic and training point of view, how different is it from swimming?
MICHAEL PHELPS: Probably not too much different. You know, if you want to be the best golfer in the world, you probably have to putt in just as much time as I put in the sport of swimming. There have been many times on the show where we have hit 500 to 1,000 golf balls, just being on the range.
You know, it’s a work out in itself, because for me I’m trying to make sure my grip stays on; to make sure my takeaway is the same; make sure I’m not coming too steep down on the ball; make sure I’m getting full rotation. You know, there are so many little things that I have to work on and have to constantly think of what I am hitting a shot or when I am swinging a club so that I can I guess take away spraying the ball or putting it out‑of‑bounds or just trying to keep it in play.
There are a lot of things that are constantly going on in my head, and obviously repetition is the highest form of learning, so the more I can do that, the better off I’ll be.
Q. What do you think of the controversy with this weekend’s round of golf with the President and Tiger?
HANK HANEY: I guess I didn’t see the controversy. Sounds like they enjoyed their round of golf and I’m sure it was fun for both of them. Other than that, I really don’t have a comment.
Q. On the issue of pressure, I know it’s a different kind of pressure, but Michael, did you feel pressure to perform and to get something out of doing these shows and make Hank look good and to make yourself look good? Is there a pressure involved in this process for you?
MICHAEL PHELPS: I mean, I don’t want to answer this question for Hank, but I think that when we both have passions and we both have a goal. We want to do everything that we can to accomplish that goal.
Hank knows what I want to accomplish and I told him that, and he’s going to do everything he can to get me there, and one day, I’m sure it will happen. But I think in a sport like this, in any sport, it really depends on how much time I’m willing to putt into practicing to be able to get to that point. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I don’t like to fail. I don’t like to fall short of a goal.
So I mean, I think that’s just where the pressure comes from on my standpoint, and I’ll say that being able to play in the Waste Management and also playing in The Ryder Cup Pro‑Am, I felt pressure there because I’ve never played golf in front of thousands of people. I guess that was an interesting and new experience.
Q. Hank, this is your fourth installment in the series of dealing with various players, the celebrities; do you feel pressure? You obviously want to be able to show progress during the show that someone is improving. Just talk a little bit about that aspect.
HANK HANEY: Yeah, this is our fifth year. You know, as a coach, you always feel that. I feel that with every student that I’ve ever taught. But I don’t think anyone will ever judge any harder than I would judge myself.
So I realize that you’ve got to try to achieve the best that you can possibly do, but then there’s limitations, and golf is a hard game, and it takes a lot of practice and it takes time. And when you’re inhibited, if you will, by doing a series of shows, the time frame is pretty short, and you have to be realistic.
But the great thing that I’ve been doing this year, Michael really gets that. He understands. He gets that small steps, baby steps; he says it all the time, and that’s the attitude that you have to have.
I’m always one that just if we are in the right direction; if we are on the right road and we are on the right path and going in the right direction, it’s never been something to worry me about when am I going to get there or how long is it going to take. As long as you’re making progress, you’ll get there, as long as you just keep working at it, and that’s the way that I judge it.
But obviously you like to look good and have your student hit good shots. Nobody enjoys their students’ good shots more than I do and nobody agonizes over the bad shots like I do, either, but I’m sure every coach feels the same way.
MICHAEL PHELPS: I may have some times where I’m pretty upset after a bad shot, so we could have a little bit of argument there (laughing).
Q. There are more great golfers the size of Tom Watson and Luke Donald than maybe compared to Michael; is size an issue, being that tall?
HANK HANEY: Yeah, the size is an asset and it’s also detriment, too, because the taller you are, the longer your arms are, and the more speed you’re going to have and the more power you have. But also, that brings you wildness.
When you look at the game today, there’s so many players with big arcs that are playing; Bubba Watson who Michael played with at the Waste Management Pro‑Am, he’s got a huge arc and he’s tall and he hits it forever. Phil Mickelson is not a short guy and he has a big, big swing and big arc, and obviously Ernie Els is big.
So you’re seeing more of it. That’s why they all say, the player that is bigger and taller has a lot of potential, but what that usually means is he also has a hard time finding his ball. The player that’s short, he can always find his ball, but he’s never somebody they look at and say, wow, you’ve got a lot of potential.
So it’s fun as a coach to work with somebody that has power and that has potential to achieve, really, anything that he wants to achieve. It’s just a question of time and how much work they put into it.
Q. In the press release, and you spoke about it earlier in this session, you talked about your goal. And so my question is: Your ultimate goal, I’m not sure if you’ve articulated what your ultimate goal in golf is. You did say compete with friends ‑‑ but are you thinking of a professional career. Maybe that’s a crazy question to ask at this point, and I’m sorry if it is. And are you in Sarasota and are you doing something with the Baltimore Orioles tomorrow? And Haney, is Michael better than Rush Limbaugh? I’m being funny with the last question, so don’t take it personally.
MICHAEL PHELPS: Well, I mean, one thing with me, and every goal I’ve had ‑‑ in the sport of swimming, my mother didn’t know my goals. The only person that knew my goals were my coaches. That’s something that ‑‑ no offense to you guys, but I don’t think you guys are going to help me with my goals of X, if I do tell you my goals. So I see my goals as personal and I always have. That’s just been how I’ve worked.
So in the game of golf, there’s one person who is going to help me, and it’s going to be Hank. So him and I have a great feel of what I want to do and also how much on board I am for it. I think we are working together and we have a great relationship, and I have no doubt in my mind that we will hit the goal that we want to hit, and I guess it’s really just a matter of time.
As for the second, yeah, I think we are going to stop by over there tomorrow and see the guys. I’ve been going back and forth with a couple of them. This is my first time being down here in Sarasota, so being able to stop by their spring training facility is something that me and a couple friends down here are looking forward to, so we are very, very excited.
HANK HANEY: Rush sent me a message a couple months ago and he shot 78 in the tournament, and from where he started, that was a great improvement. So if Michael tops that, I’ll feel really good.
Q. Make a case for the show. Why should people watch you play golf?
MICHAEL PHELPS: It’s probably going to be one of the funniest shows you’ve ever scene of the Haney Project. With the experiences that we have with the friends that I have on the show, I don’t want to give too much away, but I guarantee you, we will have you laughing each part of the show, every single episode you ever watch, you’re going to be ‑‑ you may be crying because you’re laughing so hard. We have been laughing every step of the way and we’ve had a great experience, and I have learned a lot. You can see from the very first shot that I took to the very last.
I think one of the cool things about this is that I think there are a lot of people that struggle with the sport of golf. It’s not an easy sport. I think every single person out there is a human being and we all struggle in everything that we do.
So I think with practice, you can being whatever you want to be, and with a goal you can go in any direction that you want to go in. So I think that’s something that I think a lot of people will get out of the show.
Q. How comfortable are you in front of the camera on the course?
MICHAEL PHELPS: Well, first, I was a little nervous. I don’t get as afraid to feel like I’m going to hit the camera if it sticks in front of me, but the first couple times, we’ve had some close calls, close encounters throughout the show where we have almost taken a couple of the crew members out or multiple crew members out in one shot.
So that’s the thing, I think it’s just going to be great for everybody to be able to watch and enjoy the show. I mean, I know I’m excited and it’s something that I will be watching every week. I get a little taste of it when we were in the Bahamas, and yeah, I couldn’t stop laughing. So make sure you guys check it out.
Q. Michael took a lot of time to spend with the kids at the waste management open and my daughter is a competitive swimmer and he took time for photographs and to sign swim caps, so kudos to you, Michael?
MICHAEL PHELPS: Thank you.
Q. You only had one coach in your life, Bob Bowman, world‑renowned swim coach and now you have Hank Haney. Can you talk about the differences and the similarities in the way that he coach?
MICHAEL PHELPS: Differences, I’m not sure there are too much to be honest.
It’s funny, the first couple episodes, I was like, man, I just went my whole life having a coach tell me what to do every little time, and it’s like, I’m going to right to it again. But I was like, I want to.
I know that there’s a lot of passion that Hank has with what he does. You can see that, same way Bob was. I always feel like there are times in this sport where I don’t want to do something, and it was the same thing in the sport of swimming.
But I also do know that I have a goal in this sport just like I had in swimming, and at those times when you don’t want to do it, that’s the best time.
It is funny and I feel like they have a lot of the same mentality and like I said, both have a very high amount of intensity and a lot of passion for the game. So I’m very, very happy to be able to work with Hank and this has been a great experience and I look forward to the future.
Q. Now, when you talk about similarities, are they tough? Can they be tough?
MICHAEL PHELPS: Yeah, I think you see ‑‑ well, I’ll say this. I told Hank not too long ago, I think there’s only like maybe two or three times where I ever got a “good job” from Bob. And I think it was when I won my 22nd medal and when I went eight straight in 2008. Those were two of the times where he actually said he was very proud of me. I know deep down inside he was, but that was his style of coaching.
You know, it’s funny, throughout the whole season, if I do have a good shot, Hank has that ‑‑ you know, “nice shot,” or “that’s a good golf swing.” For the longest time, I would just not even ‑‑ like I would never respond to it, and I think it was because I was kind of shocked to hear it. And now I’m starting to hear it more and more, so it’s just something new and I think that’s one thing that he does different than Bob does.
I will say, it does feel good. It feels good to get a “good job” or a “nice shot” every once in awhile. I’ve been able to, I guess, understand it and take it and say thank you every now and then.
HANK HANEY: I might have to pull back some of those great shots. He did pretty good with the swimming. I should have followed Bob’s lead a little better.
DAVID FEHERTY: Hello? Hello? I think I have the wrong number here. It’s Feherty and this seems to be an entirely wrong number.
MICHAEL PHELPS: Sir, you have the wrong number.
HANK HANEY: You probably do, David. We’re glad to have ya.
DAVID FEHERTY: I was actually the Junior cannonball champion in eighth grade. That’s as close as I got.
MICHAEL PHELPS: There’s no way. I would like proof of that, please, David.
DAVID FEHERTY: I actually introduced the watermelon which is a head first cannonball, very ill‑advised.
Good luck to you guys and looking forward to seeing the show. I know you’ve been swinging better and better.
MICHAEL PHELPS: A lot better, thank you very much, David.
THE MODERATOR: David, thank you for joining. Hank and Michael, you guys are free to go. Thanks a lot for joining us and appreciate the time.
David, you can hang on the line and Michael, we’ll see you later. Before we open for questions for you, wanted to give everyone background on the Feherty series.
The series debuted in June 2011 and at the time the premiere of Feherty became the most watched premiere of any Golf Channel series in the 17‑year history of the network. Your show has been called a cross between Oprah Winfrey and Johnny Carson by the New York Times. And his interview style is definitely his own, which really results in some interviews that not only are entertaining but also very revealing of the subjects.
He interviews people from all walks of life: Personalities in Hollywood to politics to sports, but all these people share a passion for the game of golf which is a common theme. Some of the past interviews have included former President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump; actors Samuel L. Jackson and Don Cheadle; Hall of Fame athletes like Bill Russell and Charles Barkley; of course a lot of golfers, Tom Watson Greg Norman, Rory McIlroy, world No. 1 right now.
The third season of Feherty kicks off on Monday February 25 at 10:00 PM Eastern, first with the legendary Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus. And the season also includes ‑‑ so far some of the guests in season three include famed college basketball coach Bobby Knight and former chairman and CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, to name a few.
David, what do you have to say for yourself and what do you have to say for the success of your series to reach audience beyond the boarders of golf and sports.
DAVID FEHERTY: I’m pretty dumbfounded to be honest with you. I didn’t really think that the show would ‑‑ I didn’t think it would go two seasons, never mind three.
I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the reaction to it and the fact that I still have a job.
THE MODERATOR: How about season three? What are you looking forward to in season three?
DAVID FEHERTY: Well, season three, I’ve got Jack Nicklaus as an opener, and that’s a challenging interview.
People might ask: Why did you wait until the third season before interviewing the greatest golfer of all time? Well, I think I wanted to climb a few smaller hills before I tackled Everest, because what do you ask Jack Nicklaus that he has not been asked a thousand times before.
You know, the first interview that I ever did was Lee Trevino, and I really, really wanted to have Lee first because he does so few interviews and I thought it would be something special.
But to get Jack and to get him in the kind of mood that I got him in, I think people will see a different side to him and I’m really looking forward to seeing that one.
Q. Curious to hear about your experience with Bobby Knight and what that was like, how found him as an interview subject and he had some kind words about you, so you must have done a good job on him.
DAVID FEHERTY: Well, he was ‑‑ I’m not sure that I knew what to expect with Coach Knight, you know. There’s so much been written about him, and you know, you always have a perception of how someone is going to be. I really try not to form hard perceptions like that.
He was just ‑‑ he came off as one of the all‑time great teachers I think I’ve ever been involved with or ever had the pleasure to meet. The fact that he went 29 years at Indiana and only had four seniors I think that didn’t graduate is an astonishing achievement beyond anything in sports. His kids got an education. Just interviewing the man, it was easy to see why.
He has a tremendous presence and an aura about him that you know you’re in the presence of somebody special. It’s that sort of intangible kind of a feeling that you get whether it’s Jack Nicklaus’s hand that you’re shaking or a Bill Clinton or Nelson Mandela. They are special people that have sort of a gift with communication and those are the great teachers, and of course, Bobby communicated in a very direct way for the most part. I kind of like that.
Q. You talked about with Nicklaus that you see a different side of him. How do you go about disarming somebody in an interview when some of these people are not the easiest people to open up? Aside from being you, what’s kind of your strategy as far as going into an interview and maybe trying to get something a little different that people have not seen before from an individual?
DAVID FEHERTY: Well, I think you hit it on the head there. My strategy is that I actually have absolutely no strategy. I’ll forget what the question was halfway through it and my subject has to help me out.
I think it’s kind of equal parts that they feel sorry for me, but they know ‑‑ I need help in what I’m doing. I’m honestly not very good at this. I think in a strange way that that’s one of my strengths; that it doesn’t bother me that I’m not, and people can identify with that; that they might not be very good at it either or if they have thought about it.
It’s an odd kind of ‑‑ I think they feel comfortable when they are with me and they know that I am not going to burn them or ask them any questions that haven’t been asked a thousand times or have been asked a thousand times before. I’m not interested in that. I’m more interested in the person.
And Jack’s funny. People don’t think of Jack Nicklaus as being funny, and he’s a grumpy old man in a lot of ways. But he has a wealth of knowledge ‑‑ between him and Barbara, their sense of family and the grandchildren and everything that sort of comes with the Nicklaus name has a really high quality, how you would like your own to be. And it’s the humor, behind the scenes at the Memorial or in the commercial for CBS ‑‑ wearing my CBS hat; he loves it. He loves giving people a hard time, and refusing to play with record (audio interference) or taking the piss out of people, that kind of thing.
Q. Did you think when you started this process with your show that it would be as big a success, and you would have so much fun doing it?
DAVID FEHERTY: I thought I would be doing ten or 12 episodes a year and that would be it, and I wasn’t sure really how it would take off. The show is sort of evolving along the way. I may get some personal elements into the show, as well instead of just purely an interview show. I don’t really know what direction it’s going. I have also sort of followed the path of least resistance ‑‑ not always, but since I’ve sort of got better.
You know, I’m happy to go wherever it takes me, and it’s taken me to Spain. I was almost going to China a week ago but thankfully I got rid of that one; this time of the year, I’m doing enough traveling.
But you know, I really didn’t think that the show would be ‑‑ as many people would like it. People seem to genuinely like the fact that they see it than maybe a different side of the people or they might have had a different opinion. That’s what gives me a kick. To show someone the Sergio Garcia I’ve known for ten or 12 years, or longer than that, actually, since I had to help him with his math homework, and it’s nice to be able to do that.
Q. It’s funny, the Sergio show and the Bill Clinton show stuck out to me as two of my favorite Feherty shows. Do you have any favorites?
DAVID FEHERTY: Those two would be among them, but Greg Norman has been a friend of mine for 30‑something years. And just meeting Bill Russell was one of the great moments of my life, to have a couple of days with him and keeping in touch with him. And what an extraordinary human being, what he went through and just the enormousness of his kindness ‑‑ the aura that he has, you know you’re with greatness when you’re with Bill Russell. I think that’s my favorite.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, David, I’ll let you go.
DAVID FEHERTY: Thanks for calling in, I appreciate it.
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