In a tweet on Friday evening, Zach Johnson came to the defense of Matt Kuchar, acknowledging that he had been “humbled” following a slew of criticism over a caddie payment he’d made last November.
Kuchar had won the Mayakoba Golf Classic in November 2018 using a local caddie, David “El Tucan” Ortiz. But despite earning $1.3 million in prize money, Kuchar paid his caddie just $5,000 based on a pre-tournament agreement. As word got out about the payment following Ortiz’s interview with GOLF.com, Kuchar faced an onslaught of criticism.
He initially doubled down on his actions, defending $5,000 as fair pay during an interview with GOLF.com. But he changed course after his Friday round at the Genesis Open. He issued a lengthy apology, stating he “had made a bad situation worse” and announced he would make good on Ortiz’s requested payment of $50,000.
On Friday evening, Johnson praised the steps Kuchar had taken to apologize.
“After reading the statement attached, there is no doubt in my mind this is the Kuch we all know and love,” Johnson wrote. “He has clearly been humbled, but his true heart and character surfaces. A high integrity man is one who owns up to their mistakes, learns from them, asks for forgiveness, and takes the necessary steps to change…they are role models. And that is my friend Matt.”
For his part, Johnson had a front-row seat to Kuchar’s caddie partnership; the two played together in the first two rounds at Mayakoba. In a strange twist, Ortiz wasn’t the only fill-in caddie in the group: when Johnson’s caddie Damon Green went down due to heat exhaustion, Kuchar’s wife Sybi stepped in.
Kuchar’s full-time caddie John Wood also took to Twitter in defense of his player.
“Matt, his entire family and team have never been anything but generous, inclusive, respectful, and complimentary of me and the job I do for him,” he wrote Friday night. “I wouldn’t work for someone I didn’t respect, or who didn’t value my opinion. To crucify for one mistake feels wrong.”
Kuchar was at two under par through 13 holes in his second round at the Genesis.