The perfect cocktail for this wild first quarter of a 2019 season full of controversies would be one with ingredients that included Matt Kuchar, Sergio Garcia, and rules drama. And we got that on Saturday at the WGC Match Play in Austin, where Sergio, you’ll be shocked to hear, is running hot.
Garcia and Kuchar are playing a quarterfinals match in the afternoon session at Austin Country Club. Both are match play aces — Sergio often in those team events and Kuchar in this annual WGC, which he has on his resume. They’ve looked strong again this week and it was going to be a competitive match.
Then things went sideways when the temperamental Sergio lost his mind for a moment, quick-sweeping a putt that he’d just missed. The only issue is he also missed the quick-sweep from some 10 inches or so and he made the move so fast that Kuchar did not even have time to tell him it was good. So Sergio was on the hook for that miss as well, which meant he’d just lost the hole thanks to that quick miss before Kuchar could give him the putt.
Kuchar talked to a rules official walking off the green and tried to plead that he was going to give Garcia the putt no matter what, and to see if they could work out a halve of the hole despite Sergio’s blunder. But the rules official, and Kuchar, were handcuffed. Sergio had acted out before Kuchar had said anything and there was no going back to just give him the putt.
Should Kuchar have to actually say this out loud or should he be able to give it to him retroactively? That’s a separate rules debate we’ll get into later
Then on the next hole, Garcia missed a putt inside eight feet to lose his second straight hole and fall 3-down in the match. He acted out again but this was just more of the acceptable fare, taking an angry batting practice whiff.
So now he was 3-down after playing his ass off all week and, despite that inexcusable behavior in Saudi Arabia, working toward another contending weekend during a great year on the course. The golf has been good but he was now 3-down after a stupid mistake and obviously frustrated.
Then he brought Kuchar into it on the 10th hole, where NBC walking reporter Jim “Bones” Mackay characterized him as “very upset.” Apparently, Sergio was arguing that Kuchar should have conceded a subsequent hole as a “make-good” for the mishap on the 7th hole. Or maybe Sergio was arguing Kuchar should have conceded the 8-footer he missed before the baseball swing outburst at the 8th? Here’s the scene from the 10th fairway:
And here’s Bones’ narration of the moment in real time on the broadcast. No one had a closer view walking down the fairway as this all went down:
“Sergio and Matt walked very close to each other walking down this fairway going to their tee shots. They were going at it. You could tell there was a residual effect from 7th hole and that controversial ruling and Sergio is not happy about that. They were going back and forth.”
Then up on the green, Bones added more:
“Sergio is very upset. He continued to be upset as these guys walked from their second shots towards the green… It is just very, very tense right now. Sergio is very upset.”
As far as golf beef goes, this was a red alert, especially with Sergio involved. You immediately harkened back to Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez and their caddies going nose-to-nose in this same event in 2015.
The primary issue here is with Sergio thinking Kuchar should have conceded some later hole. But as Dan Hicks added, that’s basically just covering up for Sergio’s “bad behavior.” Behavior may be too strong a word but it was a dumb mistake that I’m not sure Kuchar is responsible for balancing out with some generous concession of a later hole.
A few holes later, Sergio called over Bones to relay a message and say it all starts with him and confirming he was the one that made the mistake with the quick sweep on the 7th green. He was, as Bones put it, taking full ownership for the entire ordeal. It was nice clarification and perhaps the start of the PR effort mid-round.
Kuchar appears well on his way to the win, where he could face Tiger Woods in the semifinals on Sunday morning. We’ll hear more about this from Sergio and Kuchar as they get off the course and collect the many conflicting and valid points from yet another mess that symbolizes the first few months of this golf year perfectly.