The bizarre Sergio Garcia-Matt Kuchar concession drama from Saturday’s quarterfinal round at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was even more bizarre than it looked.
Kuchar said that after Garcia lost the seventh hole by botching a short putt with a back-handed rake — a putt that Kuchar would have conceded if Garcia hadn’t rushed it — Garcia suggested that Kuchar concede a hole to make things right.
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“I said I didn’t want that to be how a hole was won or lost,” Kuchar said after their match at Austin Country Club. “And he said, ‘Well, you can concede a hole.’ I’m not sure I’m ready to concede a hole.”
When asked again by the press to clarify what Kuchar meant by “concede a hole,” Kuchar doubled down.
“I apologized,” Kuchar said. “I said, ‘I don’t like the way this was played out.’ He said, ‘You can concede a hole.’ I thought about it and said, ‘I don’t like that idea, either.'”
To recap: Garcia had an eight-foot putt for par on the seventh hole. If he made the putt, Garcia would have won the hole and tied Kuchar in their match.
Garcia missed it, and this is where things got weird.
Garcia quickly went up to tap in his bogey putt to remain one back of Kuchar after seven holes. Problem was, he didn’t tap it in, as Garcia’s rake-in attempt with the back of his putter caught the edge of the cup and rimmed out. Watch it for yourself here.
Because of how quickly he went to tap in his putt, Garcia missed out on a chance to have the putt conceded by Kuchar. Kuchar was approached by a rules official to see if he had conceded the putt before Garcia touched it with his club. While Kuchar said he would have given Garcia the putt, he did not do so in time.
As a result, Garcia lost the hole, which left him in a visibly agitated state.
NBC golf analyst Paul Azinger did not mince his words when criticizing Garcia’s antics on Saturday.
“I think Sergio spun that whole debacle into being personal,” Azinger said during the broadcast. “Sergio is hot-blooded. And I think he tried to make this thing personal, change the whole kind of mindset. Once you miss, you don’t just slap the next one. You have to be looking at your opponent. Just very careless.”
After missing another putt for par on the eighth hole, Garcia nearly launched the ball off the green with a full putter swing. Check it out here:
Then, at the ninth tee, Garcia sent his tee shot into a penalty area and was forced to settle for bogey. At the next hole, Garcia and Kuchar were shown chatting while waiting to hit their shots on the fairway. Jim Mackay, the walking reporter with the pair, called the situation “very tense.” Kuchar would go on to win the match 2 up.
Kuchar further explained his side of the story during his post-match press conference.
“Sergio I saw missed it,” Kuchar said. “And as I looked up again, I saw he had missed the next one. And I saw him off the green, I said, ‘Sergio, I didn’t say anything, I’m not sure how this works out.’ I didn’t want that to be an issue. So I asked [rules official] Robby Ware, I said, ‘Listen, I don’t know how to handle this, but I didn’t concede the putt, Sergio missed the putt.’ Sergio said, totally his mistake. He knew he made a mistake.”
“It’s not a—certainly I don’t use any gamesmanship, it’s not a match play tactic, it’s not anything,” Kuchar said. “It was just one of those mistakes that Sergio made. And I said it’s kind of one of those tough deals in the game of golf.”
After the match, Garcia also explained his side of the story.
“It’s quite simple. I screwed it up, it’s as simple as that,” Garcia said. “Obviously I missed my putt and I kind of tapped it with the back of my putter before he said anything. Yeah, it’s a loss of hole. I understand that. The only issue that it was, was that Kooch was like, ‘I didn’t see it good, but I don’t want to take the hole. I don’t want to do this like this.’ So I was like ‘okay, it’s fine, what do you want to do? Because there are many options that you can do if you don’t want to take the hole, even though I’ve already lost that hole.’ But obviously he didn’t like any of the options that were there.”
“It’s fine. At the end of the day, I’m the one that made the mistake,” Garcia concluded.
Still, it was Kuchar who moved on to play on Sunday. The nine-time PGA Tour winner, who last won at the Sony Open in January, will face Lucas Bjerregaard in the semifinals.
The winner of the Kuchar-Bjerregaard match will face the winner of the Kevin Kisner-Francesco Molinari showdown.