LOS ANGELES — Matt Kuchar again expressed regret for the way he handled payment of a fill-in caddie at the Mayakoba Classic in November, a controversy that has enveloped him for the past several days.
After issuing a statement Friday in which the nine-time PGA Tour winner said he would be making full payment of the amount caddie David Giral Ortiz requested in a saga that has played out over months, Kuchar spoke for the first time about it Saturday morning after completing the second round of the Genesis Open.
“Listen, I was stubborn, hard-headed,” Kuchar said. “In my mind I had it as a deal is a deal, but after I won the tournament, a deal wasn’t a deal. Not a good deal. Any transaction, all parties should come out feeling like they’ve won, and certainly in David’s case, he did not feel like he won in that situation, and I needed to make that right. It’s as simple as that.”
In November, Kuchar, 40, won the Mayakoba Classic near Cancun, his first victory on the PGA Tour in four years.
Because it was a last-minute decision to play the event, his regular, full-time caddie, John Wood, was unable to make the trip. So Kuchar hired a local caddie, Ortiz, 40, who regularly works at the resort and makes up to $200 a day.
Kuchar and Ortiz struck a deal in which the caddie would be paid $1,000 if the golfer missed the cut, $2,000 for making the cut, $3,000 for a top-20 finish and $4,000 for a top-10. There was no provision for a victory, and afterward, Kuchar paid Ortiz $5,000 in cash.
For the victory, Kuchar won $1,296,000. A regular, full-time caddie with a standard deal would expect to be paid 10 percent, or $129,000. Most are in agreement that Ortiz did not deserve that much, as he does not travel the circuit full-time.
But as Kuchar — who has over $47 million in career earnings — was on his way to another victory last month at the Sony Open, word began to circulate that Ortiz was unhappy with the payment. Social media started to run with it, and earlier this week Golf.com spoke with Ortiz, who through a translator, said he had been offered an extra $15,000 but turned it down, believing he was entitled to a total of $50,000.
Kuchar initially stuck to his “deal is a deal” mantra, worsening an already escalating situation. Over the past few days, Kuchar’s agent, Mark Steinberg, and others sought to work a deal with Ortiz, with Kuchar even pledging a donation to the Makakoba tournament charities.
On Saturday, Kuchar said he had tried to contact Ortiz by phone Friday night but had been unable to connect.
He admitted that the last few days have been “interesting,” with “a lot going on on and off the course.”
“I don’t know if ‘soul searching’ is the right term,” Kuchar said in response to what the last few days have been like. “I think I live my life in pretty simple terms. I find things basic. You treat people the way you want to be treated. And then you put the shoe on the other foot. I think those are like two simple rules that I think I’ve always followed. I think everybody should follow.
“I missed the boat with this one. I did not put the shoe on the other foot. I did not do a good job there, and I think in any situation, if you can just understand where somebody else is coming from, it makes the world a lot better of a place. I missed that one.”
Kuchar admitted to hearing some negative comments from fans in the gallery during Friday’s play. Few, if any, players publicly came to support him. And undoubtedly there had to be some pressure from his sponsors over the negativity.
“I’ve been out here 20 years,” Kuchar said. “I think people know who I am. I always try my best to do my best for the fans. I’ve had an incredible relationship with the fans. Certainly this week had a few guys hollering out, but for the most part I think people judge me on the long term and know who I really am, and certainly hope that continues.”