In what is likely to be the final word from either major party in the Matt Kuchar-David Giral Ortiz (a.k.a. El Tucan) saga, Kuchar sat down with Golf.com’s Michael Bamberger in the Riviera Country Club locker room on Wednesday following The Genesis Open pro-am to give his side of the story that has taken the golf world by storm.
After winning the Mayakoba Golf Classic late in 2018, his first victory on the PGA Tour in four years, Kuchar reportedly paid his local caddie, Ortiz, a sum of $3,000 for the week. Subsequent reports, including one earlier this week from Bamberger, bore out that the sum totaled $5,000, which was 0.38% of Kuchar’s 1.296 million payday.
“I feel like I was taken advantage of by placing my trust in Matt,” Ortiz wrote in an email to Kuchar’s agent, Mark Steinberg, last month.
On Wednesday, Kuchar expressed confusion as to the caddie’s disappointment.
“I kind of think someone got in his ear,” Kuchar told Bamberger. “I was very clear and very upfront on Tuesday [of the tournament week]. And he said, ‘OK.’ He had the ability, with bonuses, to make up to $4,000.”
“I think if you ask locker room attendants, they’ll tell you that they’re happy to see me. I’m no Phil Mickelson, but these guys are like, ‘Matt’s coming our way”
— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) February 14, 2019
The agreed upon payment, according to Kuchar, was $2,000 for the week, regardless if he made or missed the cut, $3,000 if he finished inside the top-20 and $4,000 if he finished inside the top-10. With the win, Kuchar believed he had paid Ortiz the agreed upon amount, plus some.
“The extra $1,000 was, ‘Thank you — it was a great week.’ Those were the terms,” Kuchar said. “He was in agreement with those terms. That’s where I struggle. I don’t know what happened. Someone must have said, ‘You need much more.’”
Ortiz described the payment structure differently, saying Kuchar had promised $3,000 for the week with the additional $2,000 that he was given in cash in an envelope on Sunday evening as a down payment on his bonus, only the bonus never came.
The additional $15,000 that was offered to El Tucan, which he turned down — “No thank you. They can keep their money.” — was offered by Kuchar’s agency, Excel Sports Management, Kuchar said.
“I think people know me well enough to know I wasn’t trying to get away with anything, that is not how I operate,” Kuchar said. “I think if you ask locker room attendants, they’ll tell you that they’re happy to see me. I’m no Phil Mickelson, but these guys are like, ‘Matt’s coming our way.’
“Maybe I missed the boat here. I kind of think I go there (to Mexico) next week, and win, am I expected to pay him $130,000?”
Kuchar said he has always planned to bring his regular caddie, John Wood, to Mayakoba next year, so a return loop with El Tucan was never in the cards, but he had hoped to have a cordial relationship with Ortiz whenever he went back to Playa del Carmen.
“For a guy who makes $200 a day, a $5,000 week is a really big week,” he said. “I try to look at the bright side of everything. I hope he’s happy, I hope things are really good in his life. I have to think, if he was given the same opportunity to do it again, he’d say, `Yeah.’ He has a nice personality. He’s easy to be with. The photo of the two of us with the trophy, that will always be on the wall in my office.”