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Feb 17th, 2019

Matt Kuchar admits being 'hard-headed' in caddie pay storm

As 'Let's get Li Haotong's £100k back' Kickstarter gets off to slow start..

Matt Kuchar is a decent guy, you'll often see him out and about in the town talking to fans, having dinner, wherever the Open is while other tour players hide themselves away in their hotel rooms. On the occasion of his first win in four years at the Mayakoba Classic last November, after signing his card, receiving his trophy and squaring off his caddie, he probably felt he had a right to swan off into the sunset and enjoy himself. A look over his shoulder was required. It just took a few weeks for him ot realise it.

So, what happened? In November, Kuchar, 40, won the Mayakoba near Cancun. Because it was a last-minute decision to play the event, his regular 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.

Kuchar won $1,296,000 and a regular PGA Tour caddie would be on 10% of their player's winnnings. The $129,000 ortiz would have received under that deal was agreed by most to be over the top as Ortiz doesn't travel the circuit full-time and incur the expenses of a full-time tour caddie.

"Are you sure caddies on the PGA Tour get paid in tea-towels?"

After issuing a statement on 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 on 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."

But as Kuchar – who has over $47 million in career earnings – was on his way to another victory last month at the Sony Open, it started to becoem aparent that Ortiz was, in fact, unhappy with the payment he received. Social media started to run with it, and earlier this week, Golf.com spoke with Ortiz, who through an interpreter 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 the golfer even pledging a donation to the Mayakoba tournament charities.

On Saturday, Kuchar said he had tried to contact Ortiz by phone Friday night but had been unable to connect. Kuchar stated that the past 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 past 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 there likely may have been 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."

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