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Masters 2023: The rule that caused controversy at Augusta National is a rule broken all the time

April 07, 2023

Patrick Smith

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Yes, Brooks Koepka’s caddie appeared to break the Rules of Golf during the first round of the Masters, and upon closer video inspection, Koepka may have broke the rule, too. However, it is a rule that, depending on who you ask, is broken all the time.

For those that missed what happened Thursday at Augusta National, cameras caught Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott, mouthing “Five” to Gary Woodland and Woodland’s caddie, Brennan Little after his second shot at the par-5 15th. Koepka also appears to be flashing five digits with his fingers before taking off his glove, and photos show Koepka hit a 5-iron into the green. As outlined under rule 10.2a, golfers aren't allowed to give or ask other golfers for advice. The penalty for both parties calls for two strokes.

Though it is rarely called, it does happen, most notably at 2019 LPGA Q-Series, when Christina Kim asserted that player Kendall Dye gestured to Kewi Weber's caddie to confirm what club Weber was using, an incident that erupted in controversy.

"I've been called a nark," Kim said. "Unfortunately, the Rules of Golf don't really care about who [are] your friends, don't really care about your personal emotions, and one thing I pride myself in is my integrity and just knowing that I had to do the right thing. If I was going to sit there and try to protect my two friends, one, I'm in breach of the Rules, which is something I hold sacred, and two, that's unfair to the other 95 players in the field, so it was a really tough decision.

"I wasn't trying to start any drama. All I was trying to do is just remind people, hey, if you're going to do something just make sure you do it within the confines of what is and isn't allowed."

However, no penalty was ultimately called Thursday at the Masters, as an official statement from Augusta National confirmed, "All involved were adamant that no advice was given or requested."

"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."

With Koepka mounting a three-shot lead early Friday at the Masters, the incident remains controversial on social media. Thing is, those around the game insist these matters are common in professional golf.

Following the LPGA controversy, our Undercover Caddie provided some context to what went down. “I’ve been asked a lot lately, because of the LPGA Q-Series incident, about soliciting advice on club selection. One of the women involved said it happens all the time in professional golf. To which I say, “Eh,’” our Undercover Caddie said. “In most instances, a caddie will walk over and look to see what’s missing in the bag. If we’re in a featured group, we’ll flash a number to a cameraman or reporter; for those seeking guidance, there’s your sign. I’ve seen caddies, occasionally, pass along this info.”

On Thursday night on Golf Channel, former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley said the no penalty was “staggering” because “the video evidence is right there. In that same breath, McGinley also said it wasn’t a big deal.

“This is common practice on tour,” McGinley said. “Whether you like it or not, it happens in every professional tournament around the world… This is not considered a serious breach among the players… as long as I’ve been on tour, this is what it is.”

But with the heightened attention to the rule thanks to the Koepka video, don’t expect many caddies fall into a similar trap this Masters weekend.