AUGUSTA, Ga. — A year ago Brooks Koepka and his caddie, Ricky Elliot, sparked a rules question/controversy during the first round of the 2023 Masters that almost cost the eventual 54-hole leader two shots.

After hitting a 5-iron for his second shot onto the par-5 15th hole, cameras panned to Koepka who appeared to be holding out five fingers, as his caddie mouthed the words “five” to Gary Woodland and his caddie, Brennan Little. 2024-04-09 at 4.16.52 PM.png

Giving or asking for advice during a round of golf is a violation of Rule 10.2 under the Rules of Golf, which you can read below. If deemed to have violated that rule, it can result in a two-shot penalty for both players.

During a round, a player must not:

  • Give advice to anyone in the competition who is playing on the course,
  • Ask anyone for advice, other than the player’s caddie, or
  • Touch another player’s equipment to learn information that would be advice if given by or asked of the other player (such as touching the other player’s clubs or bag to see what club is being used).

This does not apply before a round, while play is stopped under Rule 5.7a or between rounds in a competition.

The moment generated much discussion online. Koepka said he and rules officials reviewed the situation after the round. Ultimately, they found that no rule was violated, so Koepka signed for an opening-round 65 and finished the day in a share of the lead.

A year later, Koepka was asked how he feels about the rule during his 2024 pre-tournament press conference. The five-time major champion who plays on the LIV Golf League stopped short of saying he disapproved of the rule, but seemed to suggest it was largely ineffectual.

“Everybody’s exchanging information all day long … looking in guys’ bags, caddies are signaling all day long. But who knew, I think I was just foreshadowing what was going to happen.”

Koepka’s brief response sheds light on what is an unspoken practice on tour among caddies sharing information on with fellow players. It was something Golf Channel analyst Paul McGinley spoke to after the incident:

“This is common practice on tour,” McGinley noted. “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.”

To counteract that would require a large-scale reconfiguration of the rules—from banning caddies and players from looking in each others’ bags, among other things. The Koepka issue specifically remained a heat conversation during the weekend, ultimately come to rest when Koepka finished runner-up to Jon Rahm. But the issue overall remains a gray area that could potentially lead to more controversies moving forward.


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