Matt Kuchar apologized on Friday for what he said were insensitive comments about the caddie he used at the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico last fall and said he would pay the US$50,000 the caddie requested.
He also said he would make a donation to the tournament to be distributed to charities in the Cancun area.
“Golf is a game where we call penalties on ourselves,” Kuchar said in a statement released by the PGA Tour. “I should have done that long ago and not let this situation escalate.”
Kuchar’s regular caddie couldn’t make the trip to Mexico in November, so he used David Ortiz from El Camaleon Golf Club. Kuchar won for the first time in more than four years and earned US$1,296,000.
Ortiz received US$5,000.
Kuchar defended the payment – regular PGA Tour caddies typically get 10 per cent from the winner – by saying they had an agreement at the start of the week. In an interview with golf.com, Kuchar said he did not understand why there was such a big buzz on social media.
“For a guy who makes $200 a day, a $5,000 week is a really good week,” Kuchar said.
Ortiz had told the website he didn’t expect the full 10 per cent as a full-time caddie, but that he thought it was worth US$50,000. He said he sent three e-mails to Kuchar’s agent, Mark Steinberg at Excel Sports Management and was offered an additional US$15,000, which he turned down because he found it unacceptable.
Now he’s getting his money after Kuchar spent the past two days defending the arrangement.
“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 now what I want to represent.”
Kuchar, who opened with a 68 on Friday at the Genesis Open, said he would call Ortiz after play on Friday, which he said was overdue.
“I have made sure he has received the full total that he has requested,” Kuchar said.
The situation first came to light when PGA Tour Champions player Tom Gillis tweeted in January – as Kuchar was on his way to another victory in the Sony Open – that he paid a local caddie at the Mayakoba Classic only US$3,000. Asked about it in Honolulu, Kuchar said it wasn’t US$3,000 and it wasn’t 10 per cent, a variance of about $125,000.
In the golf.com interview, Kuchar suggested that someone persuaded Ortiz to ask for more.
“I was very clear and very upfront. And he said, ‘Okay.’ He had the ability, with bonuses, to make up to US$4,000,” Kuchar told the website.
He said the deal was US$1,000 if he missed the cut, US$2,000 if he made the cut, US$3,000 if he finished in the top 20 and US$4,000 if he was in the top 10. Kuchar said the extra US$1,000 was a token of gratitude for a great week.
“He was in agreement with those terms,” Kuchar said. “That’s where I struggle. I don’t know what happened. Someone must have said, ‘You need much more.“’
The apology and payment is a big step toward ending a saga that Kuchar said had played out mostly on social media. Even so, it was getting more attention from players on the range than Sergio Garcia damaging five greens and getting disqualified in Saudi Arabia.
“I never wanted to bring any negativity to the Mayakoba Golf Classic,” Kuchar said. He did not mention the size of the donation he was making or what philanthropic causes it would support in Playa del Carmen and Cancun.