We all know the story. Matt Kuchar goes down to the Mayakoba Golf Classic at the Mayakoba Resort in México without his full-time caddie and, upon recommendation, requests and obtained the services of local looper David Gival “El Tucan,” Ortiz. Kuchar goes on to win the tournament, grabbing his first victory in four years and providing fans with a story so nauseatingly cute and wholesome Disney is probably already negotiating the movie rights and giving Dennis Quaid golf lessons. The whole thing is perfect. Resident Good Guy™️ Kuch, out of the wholesomeness that is his heart of gold, plucks Mr. Ortiz out of the caddyshack to ply his well of knowledge and wisdom to guide him to victory. If “The Legend Of Bagger Vance,” hadn’t come out 19 years ago we’d already have “The Legend of El Tucan.”
Fast forward to a couple weeks ago and the rose colored glasses we all looked at that champagne showered trophy hoisting pic through have been thrown off in a money fight worthy of the sleaziest Hollywood tabloid. Mr. Ortiz revealed that Kuchar did not, as so many believe he should have, take that giant check and fulfill the storybook ending by giving it to “El Tucan,” as gratitude for ending his years long victory drought and fulfilling his life’s purpose of winning the Mayakoba Golf Classic. No, instead, Mr. Ortiz says Matt paid him $4k in various small bill cash in an envelope like their week spent together was more akin to an escort’s tryst than a kinsmen’s bonding.
For many, and especially many who deal in ham fisted hackneyed clickbait or fantasyland nostalgia, this news has revealed Matt Kuchar to be more at home in the companionship of Mr. Potter, Ebenezer Scrooge, and C. Montgomery Burns than the guy who refused to patent Penicillin, Oskar Schindler, and I guess Christ himself. Various publications have penned pieces, pundits have proselytized pessimisms, and plebes have pithed their opines insisting Kuchar should have given Mr. Ortiz at minimum five of his seven figure purse, and that to not do so not only shatters his Opie Taylor persona but threatens his ability to enter further tournaments.
We can all agree Matt missed a PR opportunity. That much is evidenced in his agent, Mark Steinberg offering $15k of Matt’s dollars to Ortiz in what can be best described as “shut the hell up,” money. But Steinberg guided Tiger Woods through the Year Which Shall Not Be Named. The fact he didn’t go up to Matt and say “Look, you’ve got a publicist’s wet dream with this. Just make a big show of coming back here in a month and surprising Ortiz with a big ass bonus check and you’ll have more karma than Mother Theresa,” is a mistake on Steinberg’s part. But missed PR opportunities aren’t the same as financial dishonesty or poor character decisions, no matter how hard people are insisting their similarities. A missed PR opportunity is getting an extra burger in your drive thru order and opting to throw it away rather than give it to a homeless person while financial dishonesty is telling a blind homeless person you’re giving them $100 as you put a Washington in their coffer. Matt is guilty of the former, not the latter.
I think what it ultimately comes down to is a difference of perception of the relationship. It seems Mr. Ortiz viewed arrangement more personally than Kuchar did, believing himself deserving of residual compensation earned through a closer partnership, while Kuchar believed himself to be hiring a professional into a professional agreement and ultimately, that’s why I have to side with Kuch on this one. Ortiz knew what he was getting paid before the tournament began, he knew that at best, his cut of Kuchar’s earnings would be 3%, and he still agreed to work for him. Both Kuchar and Ortiz have stated the initial agreement, so it’s not like Kuchar deceivedMr. Ortiz before employing him. It’s understandable Ortiz thought Kuchar’s success might compensate him a bonus, and he’s right, it did, just not an amount Ortiz and several fans and pundits agree with.
But a disagreement isn’t a crime. None of us truly know the extent to which Ortiz assisted Kuchar in obtaining his victory, clearly Ortiz and many others believed it was reflected in an amount greater than a thousand dollars. But to execute Kuchar in the court of public opinion, particularly in the name of clicks and story profiteering, because he wanted to keep a professional relationship professional is classless and hypocritical. I can say with near absolute certainty none of the pundits condemning Kuchar from atop their throne of conscience, nor the several dozens of fans accusing Matt of sullying the sanctity of the game would go back and give the store clerk they bought their winning lottery ticket from $100k so let’s not disparage Kuch for behaving the same.