Eventually, El Tucan was going to speak. The caddie whose actual name is David Ortiz went on the record, speaking with Golf.com to offer his experience in working for Matt Kuchar en route to Kuchar’s win at the PGA Tour’s 2018 Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico.
Ortiz, a local caddie at El Camaleon Golf Course at the Mayakoba resort near Playa del Carmen, filled in for Kuchar’s regular caddie, John Wood, who was unable to work that week due to a previous commitment. The pair worked well together, and Kuchar won his first PGA Tour event in some four years in Mexico. It was a feel-good story, with many fans assuming Kuchar would pay El Tucan the customary 10 percent of a winner’s paycheck. Kuchar pulled in $1,296,000 for the Mayakoba victory, so fans figuring El Tucan could have a life-changing payday of nearly $130,000.
However, in January, long-time PGA Tour player Tom Gillis tweeted an accusation that Kuchar had only paid Ortiz $3,000 for his services that week. His tweet created a firestorm for Kuchar, who was asked about it at the Sony Open in Hawaii, which Kuchar won.
Kuchar denied Gillis’ account, saying that he didn’t pay El Tucan the full 10 percent, nor did he pay him $3,000. Based on El Tucan’s account, that is technically correct.
Ortiz said he agreed with Kuchar on a $3,000 salary for the week, regardless of result, and some unspecified percentage of Kuchar’s earnings. At the end of the week, when Kuchar won, he paid Ortiz a total of exactly $5,000 in U.S. dollars in various bills.
On Jan. 23, Ortiz wrote to Kuchar’s agent, Mark Steinberg, as he didn’t have Kuchar’s contact information. He asked Steinberg if Kuchar would pay him more of a bonus than $2,000 for the win. Ortiz was hoping for closer to a total of $50,000, meaning he was looking for a win bonus of $47,000, or approximately 3.6 percent of the winnings. Kuchar reportedly offered an additional $15,000, or about one-third of what Tucan believed was a fair bonus. Tucan declined that offer.
Steinberg said reporting on the offer Kuchar made is “wildly inaccurate,” though it was initially almost entirely based on Gillis’ tweet.
The $3,000 base payment was certainly generous by Tour standards. Had Kuchar missed the cut or not finished well in the weekend field, that payment would have been considered competitive and fair.
Ortiz told Golf.com he does not want to work with Kuchar in 2019 when the American is expected to defend his title.