Charles Schwab Challenge

Colonial Country Club



Rules, rules

Illegal advice? Moving ball? 2 Masters rules controversies, explained

/content/dam/images/golfdigest/fullset/2022/mark2.jpg

AUGUSTA, Ga. — There's a lot of quibble within golf’s often heavy-handed rulebook. But on Thursday at the 2023 Masters, we got the best of golf's rules process. A couple of sensible conclusions that didn't result in penalties for anyone involved, despite some initial questions.

Let's break them down.

Did the ball move?

The first incident of the day happened on Augusta National's sixth hole. Collin Morikawa was standing over a 37-foot birdie putt and looked like he was about to hit it, before he promptly backed off.

/content/dam/images/golfdigest/fullset/2022/morik2.jpg

Morikawa, who shot a three-under 69, exchanged some words with his playing partners. At that point, the camera panned close to show Morikawa placing his golf ball a few inches in front of his coin on the ground, then showed Morikawa moving his coin towards his ball. The latter part of the footage made the rounds on social media, sparking some initial confusion. It was quickly cleared up when it became clear Morikawa's ball had moved unintentionally and not due to Morikawa making a stroke. After notifying his playing partners, Morikawa was simply returning his ball to his original spot.

/content/dam/images/golfdigest/fullset/2022/mark.jpg

It falls under the Rule 13.1d in the Rules of Golf, which has been recently updated and is a good one for the rest of us to keep in mind. Because Morikawa's ball had moved down the slope accidentally, unintentionally and through no attempt of his own, Morikawa marked the spot where his ball had moved to, and moved it back to where it was. Morikawa would've had to play the ball in the new spot had he not marked it already, but he had, so back to the original spot it went.

Free advice?

As outlined under rule 10.2a, golfers aren't allowed to give or ask other golfers for advice. On the 15th hole on Thursday, there was a question about whether Brooks Koepka's caddie, Ricky Elliott, had signaled to Gary Woodland's team that Koepka had hit a 5-iron into the 15th hole. All involved looked into the incident with officials after the round, and no further action was taken because, as an official statement from Augusta National confirmed, "all involved were adament that no advice was given or requested."

After his round, Koepka, who co-leads the tournament after a seven-under 65, said Woodland had only asked him about the club after the shots had been hit.

"We looked at it when we got back in," Koepka said. "[Gary Woodland] and [Gary Woodland's caddie] had no idea what we were hitting; they didn't even know—I know that fact because [Woodland] asked me what we hit walking off, when we were walking down."

Of course, had the tournament committee deemed that Koepka's caddie gave advice to Woodland's caddie, breaking the rules, Koepka could have received two-shot penalty. And had Woodland's caddied asked for it, Woodland could have also received a two-shot penalty.

• • •