So, it looks as if Matt Kuchar, the US golfer, has morphed in double-quick time from a darling of the fairways into a contemptible cheapskate, following a difference of opinion about a caddie’s bonus.
The circumstances are these. Having made a late decision to play in the Mayakoba Classic in Cancun, Mexico last November, Kuchar hired a local caddie, David Ortiz, to carry his bag because his own regular, full-time caddie was unavailable. And the pair came to a business agreement, whereby Ortiz would be paid $1,000 if Kuchar missed the cut, $2,000 for making the cut, $3,000 for a top-20 finish and $4,000 for a top-10 finish. That was the deal they struck and there was no proviso for Kuchar, who hadn’t been victorious on the PGA Tour for four years, winning the tournament.
Well, Kuchar won… and gave Ortiz $5,000 of his $1,296,000 winnings. It was more than the pair had agreed, but insufficient for Ortiz, who subsequently requested (via Kuchar’s agent) a total of $50,000. An offer of an additional $15,000 was rejected and, wouldn’t you know it, rumours began to circulate on social media that the caddie was a) unsatisfied with the (confidential) increased offer and b) hanging out for $50,000.
After Ortiz was recently interviewed by Golf.com, the story was fully out there, but Kuchar remained unmoved, saying: “For a guy who makes $200 a day, a $5,000 week is a really big week”. Whereupon the press and public alike descended on Kuchar, who was repeatedly heckled at the Genesis Open in California last Friday. Oh, the indignation from the global adjudicators of moral acceptability!
Cue one of those all-encompassing apologies, in which Kuchar referred to his comments as “out of touch and insensitive” while adding that he had failed to live up to his own values and expectations. He was, furthermore, giving Ortiz the full $50,000 and making donations to local Cancun charities.
A regular caddie normally expects to receive 10 per cent of a tournament winner’s prize money, although it’s generally agreed that a local stand-in shouldn’t expect anything like that – and it’s axiomatic that the pre-tournament financial agreement the two parties struck assuredly make the golfer look like a veritable tightwad.
But there are several issues arising from what is, frankly, an altogether unsavoury episode:
- Even allowing for Kuchar’s conspicuous miserliness in the first instance, a deal’s a deal unless both parties agree that it isn’t. And is it morally acceptable that an aggrieved party should effectively seek to substantially change its terms after the event?
- It is often said that sports people live in a bubble, but where was Kuchar’s agent in all of this? Where was the requisite “real-world” counsel?
- As so often in a tale of such moral “turpitude”, Kuchar’s portfolio of charity work and donations seems to have been airbrushed from history, as has his previous exemplary (and always sportsmanlike) behaviour.
Kuchar’s initial stinginess is certainly regrettable, but the baying-pack mentality is equally undesirable. Give the guy a break.