PGA Tour veteran Matt Kuchar was heckled relentlessly during his first round of the Genesis Open in Los Angeles for his “cringeworthy” handling of a recent caddie payment debacle.
Moments after he signed for a three-under-par 68 at Riviera Country Club on Friday, the nine-time PGA Tour winner issued a statement in which he apologised and agreed to pay Mexican caddie David Giral Ortiz $US50,000 (A$70,000) for his role in Kuchar’s victory at the Mayakoba Classic in November.
One week before Kuchar contested the Australian Open in Sydney, Kuchar pocketed $US1.3 million (A$1.8m) for winning the event but faced criticism for paying local caddie Ortiz just $US5,000.
Kuchar is 10th on the PGA Tour’s all-time career moneylist with on-course earnings of $US46.6 million.
While Ortiz is a resort caddie in Mexico’s Mayakoba area, regular PGA Tour caddies can demand up to 10 per cent of a golfer’s prize money.
Reports surfaced recently that while Ortiz was not expecting 10 per cent of Kuchar’s $1.3 million payday, he did request $US50,000 from Kuchar.
But prior to this week’s Genesis Open in LA, Kuchar confirmed reports he originally agreed to pay Ortiz $US4,000 for any top-10 result when his full-time caddie, John Wood, was not available
Kuchar reportedly chipped in an extra $1,000 for a $5,000 total – which he handed Ortiz in an envelope after the Mayakoba Classic near Cancun.
About 10 weeks after event, Ortiz was offered an additional $15,000 bonus by Kuchar’s agent Mark Steinberg, which Ortiz refused.
Steinberg also represents 14-time major winner Tiger Woods.
The 40-year-old Kuchar then ignited a backlash when he defended the $5,000 rate during interviews with reporters at Riviera on Wednesday.
Kuchar insisted that “for a (caddie) who makes $200 a day, a $5,000 week is a really big week.”
But after fans at Riviera were heard taunting Kuchar with sledges such as “Go low Kuch, go low! Just not on the gratuity!” and “10 per cent”, he issued a statement containing an apology.
The statement also said Ortiz would be paid the $50,000 and that Kuchar would make a charitable donation to the tournament for that to be distributed among the Playa del Carmen area.
“This week, I made comments that were out of touch and insensitive, making a bad situation worse,” Kuchar wrote.
“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 not what I want to represent … in this situation, I have not lived up to those values or to the expectations I’ve set for myself.
“I let myself, my family, my partners and those close to me down, but I also let David down. I plan to call David tonight … to apologize for the situation he has been put in, and I have made sure he has received the full total that he has requested.
“I am making a donation back to the event, to be distributed to the many philanthropic causes working to positively impact the communities of Playa del Carmen and Cancun.
“For my fans, as well as fans of the game, I want to apologize to you for not representing the values instilled in this incredible sport.”