PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — In his first lengthy on-camera comments about his caddie tipping scandal, a contrite and reflective Matt Kuchar vowed to repair his previously spotless reputation.
"Listen, I was stubborn, hard-headed," Kuchar said after finishing his second round of the Genesis Open at two under par. "In my mind, I had it as 'a deal is a deal.' But after I won the tournament, a deal wasn't a deal. Not a good deal."
Kuchar has been the subject of intense criticism since news broke that he paid a fill-in caddie, Mexican national David 'El Tucan' Ortiz, just $5,000 after earning $1.3 million for winning the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Caddies typically receive roughly 10% of a players' on-course earnings; El Tucan's original payday accounted for less than 0.4% of Kuchar's winning sum.
"Any transaction, all parties should come out feeling like they've won, and certainly in David's case he did not feel like he won in that situation. I need to make it right. It's as simple as that."
The comments are indiciative of a remarkable shift in Kuchar's tone toward the issue. On Tuesday, he told Golf.com's Michael Bamberger that he thought he was "good and fair" to El Tucan.
"“For a guy who makes $200 a day, a $5,000 week is a really big week,” Kuchar told Bamberger.
Those comments were widely seen as insensitive and tone-deaf, and Kuchar issued an official apology on Thursday afternoon. He also vowed to pay El Tucan the rest of the money he requested in addition to making a charitable donation.
Kuchar was asked to confirm whether he would be paying El Tucan another $45,000 to bring his compensation to $50,000.
"I don't know the best way to answer that," Kuchar said. "I've not really made full discussion as to how to answer that question."
He said he left El Tucan a message Friday evening.
Fans at Riviera Country Club reminded Kuchar of his frugal tip throughout Friday's round, with one fan screaming, "Go low, Kuch! Just not on the gratuity." Long a fan favorite on Tour, Kuchar expressed optimism that fans would eventually look past this hiccup.
"I've been out here 20 years...I think people judge me on the long term and know who I really am, and certanily hope that continues."
In an ironic twist, Kuchar's next start will be in Mexico, as he's qualified to play in next week's WGC-Mexico Championship.