- In November, Matt Kuchar won his first tournament in four years, taking home $US1.3 million in prize money.
- He won the tournament with a substitute caddie, David Giral Ortiz, but paid him only $US5,000 rather than the customary 10% afforded to caddies in a tournament win.
- Kuchar’s reputation has taken a hit from the debacle, and a former PGA caddie, Michael Collins, said it’s clear he’s in the wrong because no other pros have defended him.
- Collins also said other players now feel Kuchar needs to up the offer to $US50,000 to make things right.
Matt Kuchar has turned one of the feel-good stories of the golfing year into a personal nightmare, all because he shorted a caddie’s tip.
In November, Kuchar won the Mayakoba Golf Classic – his first tournament win in four years – and the $US1.3 million prize that came with it.
Carrying Kuchar’s bag in Mexico that weekend was David Giral Ortiz, a local caddie nicknamed “El Tucan,” who stepped in after Kuchar’s regular looper was unavailable to work on short notice.
Since it’s customary for golfers to tip their caddies roughly 10% of their earnings for a win, the weekend was thought to have been a $US130,000 windfall for Ortiz.
Instead, Kuchar tipped Ortiz just $US5,000 – $US4,000 they had agreed to before the tournament and a $US1,000 bonus for the win – earning scorn from the golfing world in the process.
According to Golf.com, Ortiz told Kuchar in January that he thought his contribution to the win was worth $US50,000, still far below the customary 10%. When Kuchar’s camp countered with an offer of an additional $US15,000, Ortiz said to keep the money.
Kuchar later defended himself, baffling those following the story, by telling Golf.com on Wednesday, “For a guy who makes $US200 a day, a $US5,000 week is a really big week.”
Now that the golf world knows Ortiz’s side of the story, many have turned on Kuchar, who ranks 10th on the all-time career earnings list, with more than $US46 million.
A former PGA caddie, Michael Collins, told ESPN’s Keith Olbermann this week it was clear Kuchar is in the wrong because no other pros have weighed in to defend him.
“Keith, here’s the easiest answer I can give you,” Collins said. “If Kuchar was in the right, how many PGA Tour pros are coming out defending what he did? I’ll wait, and so will everyone else.”
Collins went on to say that while a proper tip at the time would have earned praise for Kuchar, the matter might now be beyond repair.
“A couple of players told me if right after the tournament he writes the guy a check for $US35,000 – which is still less than 5% of a commission – he would have been seen as a hero,” Collins said. “Now most of the caddies and players that I talked to have said $US50,000 is the number, and one player said even if he pays the guy $US50,000, he’s never going to live this down.”
Kuchar was seen by many as one of the most likable golfers on the tour, with a big smile and an impressive strike.
There are few golfers on the planet easier to root for, which makes the entire scenario more baffling – perhaps no anecdote would fit better into the mythos of Kuchar than tipping a beloved local caddie named “El Tucan” a life-changing amount of money after helping him to his first win in years.
Instead, Kuchar’s reputation is still taking hits, and that’s likely to continue until he makes an effort to right his wrong. Next time you hear cheers of “Kuuuuuuuuuuch” that usually accompany his swings, listen closer – they might actually be boos.
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