KucharGate has come to a close.
Matt Kuchar, by all accounts the nicest guy on the PGA Tour, found himself in one hell of a mess over the last few weeks when news surfaced that he’d only paid David Ortiz, his fill-in caddy, a fraction of the usual fee after a victory at the Mayakoba Classic in November. Friday at the Genesis Open, Kuchar, who’d come under withering criticism for the move and subsequent statements, apologized and vowed to pay the caddy in full.
“I let myself, my family, my partners and those close to me down, but I also let David down,” Kuchar said in a statement. “I plan to call David [Friday night] when I’m off the course to apologize for the situation he has been put in, and I have made sure he has received the full total that he has requested.”
What happened with Kuchar and the caddy?
Kuchar earned $1.3 million for his victory at Mayakoba. He’d hired Ortiz, a caddy with local knowledge of the course, since Kuchar’s regular caddy was unable to make the trip. Kuchar and Ortiz struck a handshake agreement for $4,000 if Kuchar recorded a top-10 finish, and that was what Kuchar paid, plus a $1,000 bonus after the win … even though regular caddies get 10 percent of tournament winnings.
Kuchar added to the controversy when he made comments suggesting that the amount he’d paid Ortiz was “fair.” To some critics, that smacked of privilege and insensitivity, two traits which aren’t rare on tour but which Kuchar generally doesn’t display.
“The extra $1,000 was, ‘Thank you — it was a great week,’ ” Kuchar told Golf.com on Wednesday. “Those were the terms. He was in agreement with those terms. That’s where I struggle. I don’t know what happened. Someone must have said, ‘You need much more.’ ”
Why did Kuchar change his mind?
Friday, facing intense criticism and getting no support from his fellow players, Kuchar walked back those words. “This week, I made comments that were out of touch and insensitive, making a bad situation worse,” Kuchar said. “They made it seem like I was marginalizing David Ortiz and his financial situation, which was not my intention. I read them again and cringed. That is not who I am and not what I want to represent. My entire tour career, I have tried to show respect and positivity. In this situation, I have not lived up to those values or to the expectations I’ve set for myself.”
Kuchar had initially offered another $15,000 bonus. But Ortiz had sought another $45,000, for a total of $50,000, or just under 4 percent of Kuchar’s winnings. “Matt is a good person and a great player,” Ortiz told Golf.com this week. “He treated me very well. I am only disappointed by how it all finished.”
But now, it appears the matter is closed. “I never wanted to bring any negativity to the Mayakoba Golf Classic,” Kuchar said. “I feel it is my duty to represent the tournament well, so I am making a donation back to the event, to be distributed to the many philanthropic causes working to positively impact the communities of Playa del Carmen and Cancún. For my fans, as well as fans of the game, I want to apologize to you for not representing the values instilled in this incredible sport. Golf is a game where we call penalties on ourselves. I should have done that long ago and not let this situation escalate.”
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