Tony spoke to former Reuters golf correspondent Tony Jimenez about the controversial incident involving Sergio Garcia and Matt Kuchar at last week’s WGC-Match Play event in Texas:
“I remember the great Arnold Palmer once saying to me, ‘All you’ve really got to worry about in this game is putting your head on the pillow and being able to sleep at night’.
Those words resonated with me again after I watched what happened when Garcia lost to Kuchar in the quarter-finals.
Sure, Sergio cost himself again with his short fuse when he missed that back-handed tap-in from three inches but all Kuchar had to say was, ‘Hey, that putt’s good’. Under normal circumstances, that’s what most people would do.
He didn’t do that and, from my point of view, he should definitely have given Sergio the next hole. That’s what I would have done because I wouldn’t want to win a hole that way, not at all.
It’s one thing to say the referee dictated what happened but it was down to Kuchar to deal with the situation. Sergio created the problem, I know, but I think Kuchar took advantage of it.
That’s not the way I would have gone about things. It’s not a circumstance I’d like to look back on in years to come. The spirit of the game is in question. I have never done anything like that. Kuchar did and he’s got to live with it now.
We are all different, I guess, and he was clearly comfortable doing what he did. As far as he was concerned, it was within the rules.
I was involved in a similar incident during a foursomes competition back in 1966. Alex Caygill and I were playing a guy called Jimmy Hitchcock from South Africa and Bill Large, an English pro.
I missed a six-foot putt and left it three inches from the hole. Hitchcock and Large put their hands in the air and walked off the green to the next tee, which was quite a distance away. I then picked up my ball to catch up with them.
Hitchcock’s wife had seen me pick up the ball and, when we got to the next tee, she told him what I had done. He said, ‘That’s our hole then’. I replied, ‘Yeah, if that’s the way you want to play, it sure is your hole.’
Hitchcock and Large went on to win the tournament but it was one of those incidents you never forget. Some people play that way and others can’t live with themselves doing that.
It was ironic that neither of them ever won any tournaments on their own after that, never really achieved much in golf. They knew what they had done. I had to live with it and they did too.”