By JOEL BEALL
Even by the vagaries of matchplay, this Matt Kuchar–Sergio Garcia story is as idiosyncratic as golf can get.
For those that missed the Saturday fireworks at Austin Country Club, Garcia and Kuchar were locked in a WGC–Dell Match Play quarter-final duel when things went awry at the par-3 seventh. Trailing Kuchar by one, Garcia missed a seven-footer for par to win the hole, his ball coming to rest an inch or two away from the cup. It was a distance that even Suzann Pettersen would concede as good.
However, Garcia went after his putt and gave it a quick rake, and the ball lipped out. Due to the Spaniard’s swiftness, Kuchar did not have a chance to concede the putt. As such, Garcia lost the hole.
It was a circumstance that clearly did not sit well with Garcia.
Cameras then caught a tense back and forth between Kuchar and Garcia at the 10th hole. Tensions (relatively) returned to normal for the rest of the match, which Kuchar won, 2 up.
After the round, Kuchar gave his side of the story to the media.
“Sergio, I saw, missed it. And as I looked up again, I saw he had missed the next one,” Kuchar said. “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.”
Simple misunderstanding, right? But then Kuchar continued, and here’s where things went off the rails.
“I said, I didn’t want that to be how a hole was won or lost. And he said, Well, you can concede a hole. I’m not sure I’m ready to concede a hole. And just the rule played out with Robby stating how the rule works. It’s not a – certainly I don’t use any gamesmanship, it’s not a matchplay tactic, it’s not anything. 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.”
The remark that Sergio asked Kuchar concede the next hole clearly caught the media off guard, so much so that Kuchar was immediately asked, “Sergio potentially suggested you conceded the hole?” Kuchar was steadfast in his response.
“I apologised. 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… What didn’t I like about it? It’s hard to say other than I kind of just stuck to what the rules official said the rule was.”
Though it was an unfortunate situation, such a request is considered bizarre at this level of the sport. For his part, Garcia admitted as much in a separate talk with the media.
“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 OK, 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.”
Kuchar also took ownership for how things played out. “Typically there’s an acknowledgment. I understand how the concession needs to be vocal, and we’re given these rulings in all our cup events,” Kuchar said. “And I try to do a really good job. I hate when guys kind of mumble something. I try to always be very clear, very vocal. This is one I was on the back of the green. It happened so fast. I knew I hadn’t conceded it. But it was never a tactic or anything. And as I told Sergio, he said, ‘That was my bad. I know I screwed that one up.'”
As for the icy conversation on the 10th, Kuchar merely said the two were trying to get “on the same page”.