Sergio was wrong, but Kuchar was wronger

It’s not easy to sympathize with Sergio Garcia, even if you really want to…and in 2019, you probably don’t. A career full of blundering self-sabotage has destroyed any lingering benefit of the doubt we might owe him, and his deeply humiliating episode in Saudi Arabia, where he purposefully damaged several greens in a sustained fit of rage, was the last straw for even the most forgiving souls. So when a controversy erupted at the WGC-Match Play on Saturday afternoon, and it involved several displays of petulance and plaintive rage from Garcia, there was no question that the first emerging narrative would be the Occam’s Razor version: This had to be the latest case of Sergio being Sergio. Simple.

And it’s true that he didn’t acquit himself well. This is not a defense of Sergio Garcia, who has slipped beyond defending, and whose reactive nature sparked the entire controversy in the first place. Instead, it’s meant to be a measure of who bears the greatest responsibility. In this case, I believe that’s Matt Kuchar, the man on the other side of the spat and someone whose own reputation has taken an enormous and probably permanent hit after he failed to tip his local caddie what many considered a fair wage following a win in Mexico last November.

Let’s start at the beginning—early in a quarterfinal match, with a putt to win the hole, Sergio did this:

In his frustration, he raked the ball, clearly assuming that the putt had been conceded. Crucially, he didn’t look at Kuchar for confirmation of this fact, and apparently Kuchar had not made a formal concession—even though, as he later said, he would have. Beyond the never-conceders like Jason Day, there’s no situation in professional match play where a gimme of that distance wouldn’t be conceded, and in fact even someone like Day routinely gives putts of that length.

By the letter of the law—and here’s where the most pedantic and officious pundits are supporting Kuchar—Sergio had lost the hole. You have to wait for a formal concession, and if you don’t, tough luck.

However, these things are not often terribly formal, and a situation like the one with Sergio raking his putt arises with some regularity. It’s my contention, and I think the contention of anyone being honest with themselves, that the vast majority of professional golfers would have moved on from the situation without a word. Or, at most, with a private word to the opponent.

Predictably, most of Kuchar and Garcia’s colleagues steered clear of the discussion, but others, like Chris Paisley, chimed in:

On the Golf Channel, Jaime Diaz argued on behalf of Sergio. He made one error of chronology that I think is very important—I’ll get to that in a moment—but I think his point about the “human transaction” is well-stated and worth watching:

As to that sequencing error—in this case, I think it’s absolutely critical to note that Matt Kuchar sought out the rules official himself. If Robby Ware, the official on site, had come to him first and asked whether he conceded the putt, there’s a better argument for Kuchar having to tell the truth, and the process playing out as it did. But that’s not the case, and I know this because Kuchar said so himself in his post-match remarks:

Q. Could you walk us through the situation on 7, what the ruling was and kind of what the fallout was after that?
MATT KUCHAR: I kind of made a mess of things with the hole. Ended up making about a 15-footer for a bogey. Sergio had about a 10-footer, I think, for par. I made my putt, walked to the back of the green. Sergio I saw missed it. And as I looked up again, I saw he had missed the next one. And I saw him off the green, I said, “Sergio, I didn’t say anything, I’m not sure how this works out.” I didn’t want that to be an issue. So I asked Robby Ware, I said, “Listen, I don’t know how to handle this, but I didn’t concede the putt, Sergio missed the putt.” Sergio said, totally his mistake. He knew he made a mistake. I said, I didn’t want that to be how a hole was won or lost. And he said, “Well, you can concede a hole.” I’m not sure I’m ready to concede a hole. And just the rule played out with Robby stating how the rule works. It’s not a — certainly I don’t use any gamesmanship, it’s not a match play tactic, it’s not anything. It was just one of those mistakes that Sergio made. 

So, in fact, it appears that all parties had moved on and walked off the green, and Robby Ware had no idea that anything controversial had happened. Matt Kuchar had to broach the topic himself, which means that he had every opportunity to say nothing.

Now, let me give you two scenarios, and you tell me which one feels more like justice:

1. Kuchar realizes that Sergio missed a putt that was not conceded, but he also knows that the putt was a gimme, and he would have conceded it literal seconds later. Deciding that it didn’t affect the match one way or another, and was just an unfortunate case of missed communication—that, indeed, nobody else is even considering the possibility of litigating what happened—he moves on with the match.

2. Kuchar realizes that Sergio missed a putt that was not conceded, but he also knows that putt was a gimme, and he would have conceded it literal seconds later. Knowing it didn’t affect the match in any way, he nevertheless brings it to the rule official’s attention, understanding from experience that it will cost Sergio the hole.

In my opinion, one of those scenarios adheres to a strict interpretation of the rules, but it’s not the one that is ultimately the most fair. And I agree with James Hahn that the TV announcers did a poor job of presenting the case:

In fact, the second scenario—the one that actually transpired—raises some other interesting questions about Kuchar’s objective. Did he really do it because of a deep devotion to the rules of golf, or, once he realized what Sergio had done, did he spot an opportunistic way to win a hole? And if he really felt badly afterward, why didn’t he balance the scales by conceding a hole?

At that point, it becomes a question of whether you trust Kuchar’s stated reasons for escalating the matter to Robby Ware. I do not, and that’s strictly my opinion. Your mileage may vary, etc. etc. But taken as a whole, this strikes me as a situation where a stringent observance of the rules was not the same as doing the right thing…where, in fact, the rules became a shield for the wrong outcome. Sergio’s lack of restraint hurt him once again, but it was Kuchar who turned an insignificant event into a controversy, and opened the door yet again to hard questions about his intent.

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Tennis Loss Number _____

Tonight, in semi-collapsing fashion, I lost a totally inconsequential tennis match that, of course, meant a little more to me than it should have, and it’s amazing how even while ruing the loss in a minor way, the emotion of losing, or the stunted adrenaline, or whatever, kindly shoves me into darkness so that I’m thinking of everything that’s wrong with my life, everything I’ve failed to accomplish, the bleak future, and so on. And I wonder if I was hoping that a win would occlude these thoughts for a moment or two, if I’m putting off something painful with these little distractions, or if it’s just the tumbling nature of the brain using the mood to fold in on itself and leap from catastrophe to catastrophe. The last time I really fought anxiety, hard, the silver lining was that it pushed me into a new phase, and of course like anyone else I’m eager to frame something painful as something salutary, the dubious blessing in disguise, and so to some extent I believed then and still believe that some internal mechanism was driving me forward, saying “swim or perish.” And I wonder if something similar is happening now, and if it is, whether I have the energy to answer the demand, and what it means if I don’t. And so I spin myself around, all because I lost a stupid tennis match.

Am I good at the things I need to be good at? Am I secure? Am I doing what I was meant to do? Are my failures minor enough not to become slow disasters? The impossibility of knowing where this is heading has me feeling vulnerable.

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Anxiety, Part ____

Woke up today ruminating on topics ridiculous in their smallness, and standing over two fried eggs a few moments later thought, “this could be a hard day.” It is a core belief that I am more resilient than these passing demons, but even so the cycle of fear and relief can be tiring. I’m on day 12 of a punishing diet which always brings these feelings to the surface, and along with them the fear that I’m battling a real addiction (to food), and that the addiction drowns the emotions that are now free to rise. In other words, choose between a life where you grow increasingly fatter and one where you play-act at composure while assuming the fetal position in your brain. Everybody out of the house when I finally rose, and calls/texts went unanswered, which in my current state triggered fears of fatal crashes and mass shootings and hostage situations. Then a text arrived—relief. And now the fear marshals its resources again…

I’m a big believer in not getting to the bottom of problems like these, in the same way that I’m a believer in not poking around in a snake’s nest, but I can’t help but speculate on mornings like these. Is it the gift of genetics only, the stress of our political situation, or just the mysterious certainty that bad times are coming coupled with the cursed hope that maybe, in fact, they’re not? How does a boy with all the advantages and none of the trauma grow into a man who instead of waking on a day like today embracing the joy of a brief life, instead finds himself bracing for impact?

But I don’t want answers, and I want the process of finding answers even less. Hidden caprice is my best friend, so I’ll drift along until my brain or the universe changes its mind, giving one or both a nudge here or there, and trying only to solve the simpler mysteries like: How to refrain from excessive food and drink without making yourself eligible for a straitjacket?

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Dutchmen: The Pilot

A few years ago, Brandon Gardner, Spike Friedman, and I wrote a pilot called Dutchmen. Our idea was “Veep meets the NBA,” with a focus on the front office of a struggling team with a terrible owner in New York City. Click the link below to check it out!



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Protected: Patrick Reed is the Golfer We Won’t Forgive

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Great Satan Rules

RULES for the GREAT SATAN pool:

—You will pick 15 specific Winter Olympic events (ie, “biathlon 12.5km pursuit men,” not just “biathlon”), and choose the country you believe will win that event. You may choose each country only once. You may not choose America. You MUST choose South Korea once. The research is on you.

—You will rank these 15 picks by priority. The one you are most confident about should be ranked 15, and the one you feel least secure about should be 1.

—You should submit by typing your picks into gmail, single-spaced, from 15 down to 1. Do not paste from Word or Excel or anywhere else, because this makes it a huge pain to enter in the spreadsheet. One of you will do this, and we will harass you to the death. Picks should look like this:

15. Snowball Fighting, 12-Hour Melee: Luxembourg
14. Ice Fishing, Bare-Handed: Mongolia
13. Snow Angels, Blindfolded: Brazil

1. Erotic 4-person luge, nude: Italy

—There are 15 disciplines in the Winter Games. In making your 15 picks, you must use 13 of those disciplines.

—If you use all 15 disciplines and never once get Satan’d, you earn the DANTE’S JOURNEY bonus of 15 points.

—If you choose to double up in a discipline (ie, two speed skating events), and you get Satan’d in either event, your penalty doubles for that one event (no extra points for succeeding). If you triple up in a discipline, penalty values triple

Scoring: If your country wins gold, you win 4x your priority value. Silver: 2x. Bronze: 1x. Nothing: 0 pointsNo bonus points if your country has multiple podium placements.

—You may ONLY pick events in which an American is participating. Luckily, the U.S. has athletes in 97 of 102 events, excluding these five:

Freestyle Skiing – Men’s Ski Cross
Freestyle Skiing – Women’s Ski Cross
Long-Track Speed Skating – Men’s 10,000m
Short-Track Speed Skating – Women’s 3,000m Relay
Snowboarding – Women’s Parallel Giant Slalom

THE GREAT SATAN CLAUSE: If America beats your country and makes the medal stand, you just got Satan’d, sonNot only do you lose any points for that event: You lose 1x the value of your pick if America takes bronze, 2x if they take silver, 4x if they take gold. If neither your country or America makes the medal stand, it’s just zero points flat even if America beats you.

THE ROCKET MAN CLAUSE: You must pick South Korea as one of your 15 countries, but if they don’t medal in the discipline you pick, this displeases DEAR LEADER Kim Jong-Un, who has unified with South Korea for these Olympics. He doesn’t have the arsenal of the Great Satan, but he can certainly stage a devastating one-time attack. Should South Korea fail to medal in your discipline, you lose 4x the priority pick.

THE DANGEROUS DONALD EJECTION SPECTACULAR: If you get Rocket Man’d and Satan’d at the same time, you are eliminated from the pool. (Note: In a situation where your South Korean pick wins a medal but gets beat on the podium by an American, this is a Great Satan, but not a Rocket Man, and therefore not a Dangerous Donald.)

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Now I Know What a Portico Is

Hangovers get physically worse with age, but the raw quality of the brain doesn’t change—it’s just the same low-level misery as ever. It’s like having an open psychic wound for a day, where even a light breeze can affect me in ways I’d be fortified against on a normal day. There’s a sad irony here, in that the only time I seem to get drunk anymore is when stress overwhelms me by accumulation, and suddenly it’s over and I’m experiencing something fun, usually something social. And I want to heighten it, to exaggerate it, because I feel deprived of joy for so long that I want it in abundance. And then the next morning, there’s only sadness and anxiety. I’d do better to skip the drink entirely and just go running, read a book outside, go to a museum, do all the things of the idealized day that never quite occurs. It sometimes feels as though it’s been too long since I’ve had the end-of-day feeling of accomplishment, that I was productive in a way that also made me happy. And it seems like such stupidity, such a crime, that I’m letting stress chip away at me in a life that’s temporary. But of course we get swept along in a tide, we have been forever, and just as foolish as succumbing to stress is believing that the point of life is happiness and joy. But at times like these, I could really go for a bit more satisfaction. The reason standing in place feels so bad is that you are never actually standing in place—time is moving, you’re always closer to dying. So any day when you go to bed with a feeling of stagnation is a day that can only be described with the words “time passed.” You’ve lost a day, and gained nothing. I don’t advocate for the mindset that you must accomplish something concrete every single day, because that’s too fundamentally American-psychotic and will only lead to more stress and more failures to meet ridiculous expectations. But spiritual enrichment is a different matter. If I walk around my neighborhood tomorrow for one hour with my architecture encyclopedia book, and learn one or two new terms, it will still be the best thing I’ve done in a week. I’ll forget the new words before I get home, but I’ll settle for the temporary feeling—freedom to step outside the rip tide, to ignore everything, to seize something for myself, to be something other than a life that is speeding toward death while losing control of the story.

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Paste Politics Style Guide

The following applies to all Paste Politics submissions.

Submission Format: Please submit all pieces by pasting the text into an email, not as a Google doc or a Word document or anything else. If you copy and paste from Word or Google docs, please be sure the spacing is correct—these programs will often paste without paragraph breaks.

Indenting Paragraphs: Don’t.

Links: Put quotes around the text you want hyperlinked, followed by a colon (no space between finishing quote and colon) and the link (no space between colon and link). So if you want it to read like so:

I am a writer for Paste Politics.

You would write: I am a “writer”: for Paste Politics.

Please note!!!

1. There is no space between the finishing quote and the colon, and no space between the colon and the link.

2. When you put quotes around the text you want hyperlinked, please make sure you use straight quotes, not curly quotes. When you paste from wherever into the email, it will often paste as curly quotes, which you should delete and replace with straight quotes. The difference will be easy to spot.

When to use links: Only when necessary, to provide context for something that you don’t fully explain in the text. Use sparingly. If you reference Abraham Lincoln, you don’t need to link to Abraham Lincoln’s Wikipedia page.

Italics: Use <i> and </i> tags around the text you want italicized.

Bold: Use <strong> and </strong> tags around the text you want in bold.

Section headings: Use <big> and </big> tags around the text that will be the section heading.

Section breaks: Here’s a code you can paste in when you want a section break within the text:

<img alt=”1linebreakdiamond.png” src=”” width=”323″ height=”43″ class=”mt-image-center” style=”text-align: center; display: block; margin: 0 auto 20px;” />

Blockquotes: Use <blockquote> and </blockquote> tags around the appropriate text. Note that if your blockquote spans more than one paragraph, you will need new tags for each paragraph.

Dashes: We use long em dashes and no spaces between dash and text, like this:

“When we talk about Bernie Sanders—the man likely to be America’s next king—we often forget that he enjoys seances.”

On a Mac, you get these dashes by holding down option/shift/hyphen.

Embedding YouTube and Twitter: If you want to embed either of these, just put the embed codes in the proper place within the text and I’ll handle from there. The embed codes can be found on YouTube by clicking “share” beneath the video and then clicking the gray “embed” tab. The embed codes on Twitter can be found by clicking the three dots below the tweet, and choosing “embed tweet.”

Two spaces after a period: Don’t.

Dates: Month in abbreviations, no “th” after the day. So Dec. 12, 2016 is correct. December 12th is not.

Author bios: Completely fine, provided you write them in yourself at the end of the text, with links formatted correctly, inside italics tags, two short sentences at most.

Corrections: If there’s a spelling or grammatical error that I’ve missed along the way, or any kind of formatting error, I’m happy to correct. If there’s a fact error, I will correct, but unless you notice it immediately, we’ll have to note the correction at bottom. As far as stylistic corrections, once we’ve published, it’s too late to change. Believe me, I relate to my fellow obsessives and perfectionists who can’t stop noticing tiny improvements (I’ve been that guy), but we won’t be tinkering with the text after it goes up.

Other Questions: Check out the general style guide for all Paste writers.

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A Measured Response to Pete Willett, from an American

Dear Pete,

It was with great interest that I read your thoughts on this weekend’s Ryder Cup, and I’d very much like to address a few of your points in the same spirit of collegiality and mutual affection with which you penned your own missive.

First and foremost, I hope you’ll forgive me for ignoring the first half of your essay, in which you employ vague behavioral pseudoscience in the service of sorting golfers into categories beginning with the letter “B.” (You tried your best, and as a southerner in my country would say, “bless your heart.”) Instead, I’ll skip straight to the section where you address the attributes of America, and all its citizens, while simultaneously pasting the world’s largest target on your own brother’s back.

Now, you may assume that since I’m American, I’ll waste my time trying to disprove your characterizations. Nothing could be further from the truth! I’ll concede many of your points about our national shortcomings, and on those occasions when you didn’t quite hit the bullseye, I know it’s not for lack of effort. It’s just that, like most English subjects, your cognitive function has been diluted over time—an inevitable byproduct of centuries of inbreeding which not even a violent influx of superior French conquerors could disrupt for very long (I have to think that if the Normans understood the slow genetic revenge your people would take on them, they would have stayed in France and let the Danes slaughter you out of existence). When I truly consider the scrambled chromosomes of the English, resulting in the characteristic pale flaky flesh and close-set eyes of your average insensate soccer hooligan, as well as the regrettable brain damage mentioned above, I feel a sense of wonder that a man like you could pen an essay that was, at times, very nearly witty. Pete, I mean this sincerely: You should be proud.

No, I won’t dispute your contention that America is a nation of obese diabetics with a penchant for radical conservatism that is somehow horrifying and dull at the same time. Instead, I’d like the chance to place our national character in a more global and historical context. For how can we truly understand Americans, odd beasts that we are, if we don’t study the contrast with our former colonial overlords— those tea-slurping, emotion-suppressing, crown-worshiping English who once ruled an empire on which the sun never set, and who now battle Slovakia to 0-0 draws in international soccer tournaments.

When describing the English today, Pete, I believe it’s important to treat the poor blokes with appropriate nuance. That’s why I would never write a sentence like, “your country consists entirely of pasty, chinless old men with concave chests who spend their entire days staring into the fire at some musty, disintegrating social club, attempting to forget the fact that nobody in their family has held a job for six generations, and that they’re utterly dependent on a dwindling family fortune first established in the 13th century by a minor liege lord who curried favor with a hemophiliac king by murdering a six-year-old boy who might one day have challenged the throne.” Nor would I write, “your country consists entirely of drunken, swine-like peasant people with high foreheads and cauliflower ears, who speak in a bizarre infantile rhyming slang, and are such reactionary xenophobic racists that the mere sight of brown-skinned people on their miserable gray island sent them fleeing en masse from the European Union.” Nor would I write, “your country consists entirely of class-obsessed narcissists who give each other meaningless titles to curb a bone-deep insecurity about their intellectual torpor and total lack of physical vitality.”

No! I’d write all these sentences at once, to give the complete picture.

(By the way, did you know that study after study has shown that English men have the world’s smallest penises?)

There are some other facts that I think are worth consideration. For one, your powerless figurehead of a queen has somehow gone decades without taking off the same pair of white gloves, possibly because the idea of actually touching anything English is too disgusting for her to contemplate, since she’s actually German. For two, your country’s image of male beauty is Prince William, an enfeebled balding old person disguised in a young man’s doughy body, effete to the bone, blander than your cuisine, who walks around grinning moronically as he cuts ribbons at the opening ceremony for the Slough Lawn Bowling Club for the Exclusive Use of Landed White Gentlemen. For three, your country’s most interesting historical figure was an enormous elephant of a human named Winston who spent most of his thinking up witty rejoinders to duchesses who insulted him at parties, and was finally reduced to begging an American polio victim for salvation from the Nazis. For four, your trademark dish is “fish and chips,” in which the chips aren’t actually chips, and the fish is barely fish. For five, your climate is so bleak that instead of seasonal depressive disorder, your people suffer from a mysterious, fleeting sense of joy for the six days in July when there’s a faint implication of sunlight. For six, your next king has a tampon fetish.

But I don’t want to be unfair and focus solely on the present day. The history of England is also worth exploring—from the old days, when your kings and dukes were allowed to have sex with peasants’ wives on their wedding night, to modern times, when a far-right psychopath you charmingly nicknamed “The Iron Lady” let ten Irish political prisoners starve to death in prison for the crime of wanting to be called…political prisoners. In between, you had one king who killed both of his nephews, a queen who killed her cousin (your thoughtless betrayal of kin is starting to make sense, Pete!), and one man who was so despised for daring to dream of a democratic future that his corpse was dug up and beheaded in posthumous tribute. And then, not content to wreak havoc and death in the motherland, you kicked off the modern era by making life hell for poor people all over the globe, robbing them of their freedom and dignity, and forcing them to play interminable “sports” like cricket.

Finally, I’d like to point out the worldwide popularity of your neighbors, like Scotland and Ireland. Scottish men wear dresses and eat sheep guts, while the Irish have been decimated for centuries by every country with the technological capacity to build a simple boat, and have nothing to show for it but an unyielding gallows humor and an American president that was murdered by Ted Cruz’s father, and still everyone likes them far better than England.

Honestly, Pete, the world might hate England worse than you seem to hate your own brother. As it happens, the European Ryder Cup team has six Englishmen on its roster. So if some of my American brethren, stuffed on cookie dough and intoxicated on pissy beer, happen to treat your own countrymen a bit harshly this weekend, I hope you’ll forgive us. It’s simply a case of the world’s foremost power nudging a fallen empire toward the abyss of historical irrelevance which is, inevitably and irrevocably, its ultimate fate.

Stiff upper lip, chappie.


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