Matt Kuchar has said hearing his grandmother express shock about some of the things being said about him had been “very tough” during the spate of controversial incidents that made him golf’s most unpopular figure.
The American was widely criticised after he only paid a temporary caddie $5,000 following a win on the PGA Tour in the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico last September that earned him $1.3 million and only rectified that matter after admitting he’d later made comments that “were out of touch and insensitive, making a bad situation worse”.
Then, earlier this year in the Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Kuchar found himself in the spotlight again over a short putt that his opponent, Sergio Garcia, thought had been conceded before more controversy followed as he asked for relief from a pitch mark during the Memorial Tournament which left the event’s host, Jack Nicklaus, perplexed.
In his press conference ahead of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club, Kuchar was asked if he feared the series of incidents had tarnished his reputation with crowds on this side of the Atlantic, having proved a popular figure in the past with galleries in the sport’s cradle.
“The caddie thing was a tricky situation,” he said. “I feel like the difficult situations you get, you learn from those situations. You don’t learn from victories very often. You learn from your setbacks, and I think that’s something where I’ve certainly learned from.
“I look at that as an opportunity for me to learn to be more generous across the board. You know, whether it’s home with the family, with the kids, with the wife, with the fans, you name it; there’s just so many opportunities to be more generous, and that’s one of the things you learn. Sometimes the setbacks are hard, but those are the lessons that you tend to learn from and come out better from.”
Had he been hurt by some of the criticism aimed at him over the past few months? “Sure, it was difficult,” he added. “I don’t do social media, so I think that helped to not see much. However, hearing from my grandmother, you know, the things that she was hearing and talking to me about was really tough.
“You really want to make your parents proud, your grandparents proud. I’ve kind of always been that kid that had made my parents and grandparents proud. To see them hear some of the things said about me, was never something that I wanted to put them in that position, and that was very, very difficult.
“She didn’t tell any examples, just the fact that she had called me to say, “I can’t believe what they are saying” is hard, because I’ve got a pretty decent idea from other friends telling me, you know, I can’t believe what this guy said, or this guy really threw you under the bus.
“I do a good job good or bad not reading my own clippings, not reading any clippings. Just kind of good or bad, I feel like you can get pretty lost pretty quickly following a lot of what’s out there. So I don’t do it. But I have enough friends that kind of keep me abreast of some of the news and it was hard when you get your grandmother who you do so much just to make them proud and for it to go the other way is difficult.”
Kuchar, who leads the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour this season and is aiming to go one better in the Scottish Open after finishing runner-up to Rickie Fowler a couple of miles along the road at Gullane in 2015, said Phil Mickelson had offered him advice during the difficult spell in his career off the course.
“Phil has pulled me aside a couple times and said: ‘Listen, this is a tough deal. I’ve been through way worse. It will pass. You keep being the guy you are and this will go away. Unfortunately it’s a tough situation you’re in, but just keep being the guy you are and time will heal.”