Kuchar ignores online critics but not granny

LOS ANGELES • Matt Kuchar might have been able to shrug off withering social media criticism after paying less than the going rate to his stand-in caddie, but disappointing his grandmother was a whole different matter.

The American's reputation as one of professional golf's nice guys took a big hit earlier this year when word leaked out that he had paid caddie David Ortiz US$5,000 (S$6,780) from prize money of almost US$1.3 million upon lifting the PGA Tour's Mayakoba Classic in Mexico last November.

Three months later, he upped his payment to US$50,000, but only after being pilloried on social media for his perceived stinginess.

Full-time Tour bagmen usually receive 10 per cent of a winner's prize money and Ortiz, a caddie at the course where the event was held, stepped in because Kuchar's regular had been unavailable.

"I don't do the social media, so that helped to not see much (of the criticism)," he told reporters on Wednesday ahead of the Scottish Open in North Berwick.

The 41-year-old Kuchar is part of a strong field headed by Ulsterman Rory McIlroy and American Justin Thomas at the Renaissance Club.

Kuchar had initially defended his payment to Ortiz, insisting that the US$5,000 fee was more than the agreed arrangement between the pair for the week.

Describing the payment as a "tricky situation", the world No. 13 reflected upon the "really tough" conversation with his grandmother. "Just the fact that she had called me to say, 'I can't believe what they are saying' is hard," he said. "You do so much just to make (your family) proud and for it to go the other way is difficult."

The nine-time PGA Tour winner no doubt hopes the controversy is behind him, though judging by the fact that half of his press conference was about the fiasco suggests otherwise.

The event offers a final competitive chance for players to tune up before next week's British Open, the final Major of the year, at Royal Portrush. Kuchar finished second to countryman Jordan Spieth at the 2017 Open.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2019, with the headline 'Kuchar ignores online critics but not granny'. Print Edition | Subscribe