Top Professionals Have Been Saying Sorry Lately
THEY say that sorry seems to be the hardest word, but two of the world’s leading tournament professionals have been apologising to anybody who will listen as they attempt to apply some damage limitation to two very different perceived “crimes”. Sergio Garcia was disqualified from the recent Saudi International after deliberately damaging a number of greens, while Matt Kuchar felt the heat after it emerged that he had paid a local caddie “only” $5,000 after winning the Mayakoba Classic in November.
Cheating apart, there is possibly no more heinous crime in golf than deliberately damaging a course, and Garcia attracted widespread criticism from fellow professionals, officials and fans alike. Astonishingly, the European Tour felt that his disqualification was sufficient sanction. There was no fine and there was no ban. Some would say that he got off lightly.
So it came as no surprise to hear him issue a public apology at the Genesis Open. “it’s not who I truly am,” he said. There will be those who will disagree. The Spaniard is a hot-headed player who has form for damaging bunkers and for sulking when things don’t go his way. It is to be hoped, however, that this may be a watershed moment for him.
The Spaniard was disqualified for serious misconduct under rule 1.2a after admitting to damaging greens on the front nine of Royal Greens Golf & Country Club during the third round.
“I’ve obviously had some time to reflect, and want to again say I’m sorry to my fans and fellow competitors. What happened is not an example I want to set, and it’s not who I truly am. I am an emotional player and while I believe that’s one of my biggest strengths, it’s also one of my biggest flaws.
“I’m focused on working hard to channel that emotion the correct way and to be the best me, learn from it and move forward. Thanks for all the support.”
Kuchar, meanwhile, has apologised to the stand-in caddie who helped him win the Mayakoba Golf Classic three months ago, saying that he was wrong to pay him just $5,000.
He attracted a barrage of criticism for failing to give David Ortiz the traditional 10% of his $1.3m winner’s cheque. Ortiz stood in for Kuchar’s regular caddie, John Wood, at the last minute and the pair agreed he would be paid $4,000 for his week’s work. This was increased after Kuchar won the tournament, ending a four-and-a-half-year drought without a victory. He has since gone on to add the Sony Open and leads the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings with on-course earnings of almost $3m. He had defended his decision to pay Ortiz $5,000, suggesting it was a fair deal for a week’s work that the local caddie would not otherwise have had.
When it was put to Kuchar that Wood would have received $130,000, the golfer said about Ortiz: “For a guy who makes $200 a day, a $5,000 week is a really big week. I’m not losing any sleep over it.”
Ortiz complained to Kuchar’s agent, Mark Steinberg, and was offered an extra $15,000 but turned it down. “They can keep their money,” Ortiz said. “Fair is fair, and I feel like I was taken advantage of by placing my trust in Matt.”
The golfer has now said that he got it wrong and has agreed to pay Ortiz $50,000. Kuchar also announced that he would be making a substantial donation to the charities involved in the Mayakoba Golf Classic, and admitted he should not have let the matter drag on for more than three months.
In a statement, he said: “I made comments that were out of touch and insensitive, making a bad situation worse. They made it seem like I was marginalising 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.
“My entire tour career, I have tried to show respect and positivity. In this situation, I have not lived up to those values or to the expectations I’ve set for myself. I let down myself, my family, my partners and those close to me, but I also let David down.
“I plan to call David, something that is long overdue, to apologise for the situation he has been put in, and I have made sure he has received the full total that he has requested. I never wanted to bring any negativity to the Mayakoba Golf Classic. I feel it is my duty to represent the tournament well, so 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 apologise to you for not representing the values instilled in this incredible sport. Golf is a game where we call penalties on ourselves. I should have done that long ago and not let this situation escalate.”
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