Matt Kuchar has enjoyed a revival inside the ropes this season. The 41-year-old has won twice—with his triumph in Mayakoba his first tour victory since 2014—and posted eight top 10s in 17 starts. He is first in the FedEx Cup standings with a month to go before the playoffs and has essentially locked up a spot on the American Presidents Cup team. That performance continued this week in Scotland, as Kuchar is tied for the lead after the first round of the Scottish Open.
Unfortunately for Kuchar, he's made headlines for more than his play.
During January's Sony Open (a tournament Kuchar eventually won), former PGA Tour player Tom Gillis accused Kuchar of stiffing David (El Tucan) Ortiz—the local caddie Kuchar had on the bag for his victory in Mayakoba. There was a concession mishap with Sergio Garcia during the WGC-Match Play, and cameras picked up Kuchar in an odd dispute with rules officials at the Memorial.
Kuchar eventually settled up with Ortiz and settled the issue with Garcia the following week. Nevertheless, for a player who was universally adored by the public, it's been a reputation reversal for golf's "Mr. Nice Guy."
Earlier this week, Kuchar was asked about the mounting criticism, acknowledging it's been difficult.
"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," Kuchar said in Scotland. “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 did not reveal what his grandma read or heard but has those in his life who keep him abreast of what's being said about him.
“Just the fact that she had called me to say, ‘I can’t believe what they're 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.
Yet Kuchar continues to enjoy a prosperous year. He attributes the run to the advice of Phil Mickelson (who's also had his fun with Kuchar).
"He’s been one that says, ‘Listen, this is a tough deal,' " Kuchar said of Mickelson's words. "He said, ‘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.' ”
For his part, Kuchar says he's tried to learn lessons from each incident, particularly with Ortiz. "I look at that, and that’s an opportunity for me to learn to be more generous across the board," Kuchar said. "You know, whether it’s home with the family, with the kids, with the wife, with the fans, with 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.
“You don’t learn from victories very often, you learn from your setbacks. And I look at all this as an opportunity to learn to be more generous across the board.”
Kuchar will tee it up at the Open Championship next week. He's finished T-9 and second in his last two Open appearances.