'The things my grandma was hearing about me were really tough': Matt Kuchar desperate to repair damaged reputation at The Open

James Corrigan
Matt Kuchar playing a practice round ahead of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open - Getty Images Europe
Matt Kuchar playing a practice round ahead of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open - Getty Images Europe

Where better for Matt Kuchar to ­repair his shattered reputation than on the islands where the crowd took him to their hearts after he showed such grace in defeat, and where better for his grandmother to forget all those nasty slurs?

Certainly the American seemed a relieved man to be on UK soil on Wednesday, as he prepared for the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open that begins here in North Berwick on Thursday.

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It is fair to say the past year has been a roller coaster. While the 41-year-old’s bank balance has soared with two wins and two runner-up placings on the PGA Tour, his status as the game’s 'Mr Nice Guy' has all but evaporated.

First, there was the controversy which featured Kuchar initially stiffing a Mexican caddie, who he paid only $5,000 (£4,000) after he won the Mayakoba Classic and ­collected a $1.3 million cheque that would usually net the bagman $130,000.

Then there was the unseemly ­on-course row with Sergio Garcia, off whom he essentially claimed a hole at the World Match Play after the Spaniard had scooped up an ­18-inch putt.

<span>Kuchar had an argument with Sergio Garcia at the World match Play in Austin, Texas</span> <span>Credit: AP </span>
Kuchar had an argument with Sergio Garcia at the World match Play in Austin, Texas Credit: AP

Add to this the pathetic incident last month when he refused to accept a referee’s ruling on a quite obvious call and insisted on a second opinion that was always going to agree with the first, and the dramatic personality overhaul is almost complete.

Kuchar has carried on smiling, but the world has stopped smiling along, and it now seems so long ago that he impressed so many observers with his magnanimity in defeat by Jordan Spieth at the 2017 Open.

Kuchar claimed yesterday he had not read any of the criticism – but that his grandmother had. “Sure, it was difficult,” he said. “I don’t do ­social media, so that helped to not see much. However, the things my grandmother was hearing and talking to me about was really tough.

“I’ve kind of always been that kid who had made my parents and grandparents proud and to see them hear some of the things said about me was a position I never wanted to put them in, and that was very, very difficult.”

Kuchar would not reveal what his grandmother read or heard, although perhaps she follows the Twitter page of English pro Eddie Pepperell. “It’s been quite a year for Matt Kuchar as he leads the PGA Tour in both money and s---housery,” Pepperell wrote.

<span>Kuchar reacts to missing a putt at the US Open last month</span> <span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
Kuchar reacts to missing a putt at the US Open last month Credit: Getty Images

Yes, Kuchar had a fair idea as to what granny might have been exposed. “Just the fact that she had called me to say, ‘I can’t believe what they are saying’ was hard, because I had a pretty decent idea from friends telling me, you know, ‘I can’t believe what this guy said’, or ‘This guy really threw you under the bus’,” Kuchar said.

Phil Mickelson helped pick up his Ryder Cup team-mate. “Phil pulled me to one side,” Kuchar said, “and he told me, ‘listen, this is a tough deal, but I’ve been through way worse and it will pass. You keep being the guy you are and this will go away’.”

Kuchar, however, has accepted culpability – has made amends to the caddie – and will hope the galleries both here this week and next week at the Open at Royal Portrush will spot a reformed character, or at least one restored. 

“You don’t learn from victories very often, you learn from your setbacks,” he said. “And I look at all this as an opportunity to learn to be more generous across the board.”

Kuchar is joined in this field by Rory McIlroy and fellow Americans Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler.

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