Coming into 2019 Matt Kuchar and controversy weren’t very natural bedfellows, these days he can’t keep away from it. First up there was the El Tucan caddie saga which took forever to reach an acceptable ending, albeit with Kuchar’s reputation and squeaky-clean image fairly well blown to pieces, here at the WGC-Match Play he found himself in another sensational rumpus, this time with Sergio Garcia.
The Spaniard is no stranger to a bit of a fall-out and he’s spent the past two months trying, via his social media, to piece together his own image after smashing a bunker to bits in Saudi Arabia.
So here we go…
Kuchar played a terrible tee shot at the short 7th. His recovery from sand found more sand and his next recovery came up well short. However Kuchar then knocked his putt in from the fringe for a bogey four.
Garcia, one down at the time, missed from six feet and then, from three inches at the most, missed the tap-in with the back of his putter.
Matt Kuchar did not have a chance to concede Sergio Garcia's second putt.
Therefore, Garcia lost the hole.
Kuchar told the official he wanted to give Garcia the putt, but that cannot be done retroactively. pic.twitter.com/AJFF8N5J7h
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 30, 2019
Kuchar, standing on the edge of the green, didn’t have time to concede it, and obviously would have conceded the putt, but with the rules being the rules – ie it wasn’t conceded – Garcia lost the hole.
Except Kuchar was the one to bring it up, to Garcia and then the rules official, despite it being a three-inch putt.
And so begins everyone’s point of view. Some will point to Garcia being his petulant self, you have to hole out or at least ask the question, you can’t just go about back-handing it just because you’ve missed one.
Then you might easily suggest that in any game of golf, be it in a WGC event or down the club on a Saturday morning or even having just played through a windmill by the seaside, any putt from this risible length away is assumed to be ‘good’. This is nothing to do with the rules
So if the rules won’t budge then you do.
We all know when something is right or wrong and this was ridiculous. There might not be any obligation for Kuchar to put things right but the rest of the match is then skewed, both on the scoreboard and in both players’ heads.
Garcia himself had a situation with Rickie Fowler in this tournament five years ago when he took multiple drops to avoid a swarm of bees and he was uncomfortable with how long it all took. So on the next hole he gave the American a half despite Fowler being 18 feet away to Garcia’s five.
The Spaniard said at the time: “It was the right thing to do. If not, I would have been thinking about it throughout the whole match, and probably throughout the whole week. I felt like I took too much time, this is the way my dad taught me to play the game of golf. I think winning is important, but playing the game the right way is even more important to me.”
Did Kuchar seriously not give a 6 inch putt to Sergio just now? And called a rules official to confirm he did not give him the putt. Seriously? And the announcers are siding with Kuchar? Shame on you guys. Sergio deserves better than that.
— James Hahn (@JamesHahnPGA) March 30, 2019
Back in Austin at the next hole, the 8th, Garcia had another six-footer which Kuchar was happy to watch slip by. Two holes later the Spaniard was heard saying to his opponent that he would have given this putt to even things up a bit, something he more than hinted at after he had lost on the last.
“It’s quite simple, I screwed up,” said Garcia. “I understand that, the only issue was that Kuchar said he didn’t want to take the hole so I said it’s fine, there are many options, what do you want to do if you don’t want to take the hole?
“But obviously he didn’t like any of the options, it’s fine, at the end of the day I’m the one who made a mistake.”
All of which means he should have done something a bit more than just avoid much eye contact and spend even longer with your head in your yardage book.
For Kuchar he played things, as you might expect, very straight.
“It’s tough, I spoke to the rules official and it’s just one of those rules, it’s not a tactic that I use, it’s not any sort of gamesmanship and it’s just unfortunate.”
Even with Kuchar’s thick skin the match became increasingly ragged, almost as if something wasn’t quite right about the whole thing. Garcia was seen chuntering away to Kuchar’s caddie coming off one green, Kuchar gave a little thumbs up after Garcia had holed a putt and we all knew that it would go down the last.
In the end Garcia conceded the match without, ironically, Kuchar even needing his putter. Another unfortunate brush with the rule book and another lack of awareness of what’s right and wrong.