Fighting caddies likely to escape with fines

MICHAEL CHAMMAS
Last updated 17:05 07/12/2012
Matt Kelly
ANTHONY JOHNSON/Fairfax Australia
CADDY WHACK: Matt Kelly, bagman for Marc Leishman, traded blows with fellow caddie Grant Buchanan on the practice green at The Lakes.

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US PGA Tour star Marc Leishman insists James Nitties' bagman is squarely to blame for the 'caddie whack' incident that has rocked the Australian Open.

Leishman, Australia's only winner on the US PGA tour this season, on Friday welcomed an investigation into the dust-up between his caddie Matt Kelly and Grant Buchanan, the bagman of compatriot Nitties.

The PGA Tour of Australasia condemned the incident, which occurred near a practice green as the players prepared for their opening rounds, and did not rule out involving police.

However, it appears more likely one or both of the caddies will cop fines from the PGA, with an outcome expected by the end of next week.

The pair had to be separated during the incident, which was fuelled by an altercation between the caddies at the Star casino on Tuesday night.

Buchanan claimed Kelly had made taunts over Nitties' failure to crack the US PGA Tour but the blame game continued on Friday, with Leishman adamant his caddie was the victim.

"I don't think me or Matty have got anything to worry about," Leishman said.

"I was there and he (Kelly) didn't do anything.

"He stood there, copped what he got and didn't do anything apart from that. I was proud of him, to be honest."

Leishman was shocked by the incident but it clearly hasn't derailed his Open campaign.

He shot a respectable even-par 72 on Friday to remain at two under and progress to the weekend as Nitties was headed for an early exit after rounds of 77 and 71.

"It really didn't affect me at all because he (Kelly) wasn't in the wrong," Leishman said.

Nitties said the whole situation caught him off guard after only arriving in Sydney on Thursday.

"Really I don't know the whole concept of what and why and that sort of stuff," Nitties said.

"I'm unbiased about it. I can't really say I'm on anyone's side.

"I don't know both stories but Grant is one of my best friends, we go way back and I know he's a great person."

Nitties denied there was a class divide between US-based Australian golfers and those who hadn't cracked the top tour.

"I didn't think so ... everyone usually gets on great," he said.

Tournament director Andrew Langford-Jones said organisers were saddened the incident - which occurred in front of other players and spectators - had taken attention away from the tournament.

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He expected the investigation to wrap up next week.

"Having spoken with those involved, there is still a need to speak with a number of other individuals who may be able to provide further information on the incident," Langford-Jones said in a statement.

"... If, as a result of our inquiries, other agencies need to be involved, they will be notified."

Fairfax Media saw punches being thrown before the pair fell to the ground and continued wrestling in front of players and spectators. ''Matt was a good friend of mine, [or] so I thought,'' Buchanan said. ''He said some things that offended me and I approached him to clarify it and clear the air, and he pretty much laughed in my face.''

What began as a war of words a couple of days ago at the Star casino ended in embarrassment for the pair and tournament officials. The men were eventually separated, but not before Kelly sustained a cut above his lip and was forced to leave the course to wash the blood from his face.

It isn't the first time Kelly has been involved in a fight that has landed him in hot water. He faced court last year after an alcohol-fuelled brawl in his Victorian home town of Warrnambool.

He pleaded guilty and was not convicted and avoided a $2500 fine for recklessly causing injury and resisting police, although he was convicted on the minor charge of being drunk and was fined $150 and banned from the city centre between 9pm and 6am for a year.

PGA Tour of Australasia officials approached Kelly and Buchanan when they returned to the clubhouse after their round, with investigations into the matter to continue today.

''I regret it but I was put in an awkward situation, I guess,'' Buchanan said. ''I'm a passionate person and when people say things about myself and friends who I care deeply about, it's hard. Sometimes people say things and think nothing should come of it. But I just think sometimes people should be responsible for what they say.''

- AAP and Sydney Morning Herald

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