AUGUSTA, Ga. – Brooks Koepka and Gary Woodland were shown video after their round on Friday by the Masters Tournament Committee. It marked the second time that a review of a potential rules violation on the 15th hole at Augusta National during Thursday’s first round was necessary.
Originally, the investigation focused on whether Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott, had verbally given advice, which isn’t allowed in the Rules of Golf, pertaining to what club Koepka had used on his second shot at the par 5 to Woodland’s caddie, Brennan “Butchy” Little. On the second occasion, the focus was on whether Koepka had made a hand signal.
“Today was just about my, I guess, my hand and my glove,” said Koepka, who shot 67 to take the clubhouse lead at 12-under 132. “I don’t know if you’re supposed to take your glove off with your fist closed or what now.”
It had become enough of a point of contention on social media that Woodland said that Masters officials told them at scoring that “it was taking a big life.”
After the round Friday, Woodland gave his version of what happened on Thursday.
“At the end of the day, Brooks hit his shot on 15. I asked Butchy if he saw what he hit. He said no. Luckily for us because Brooks ended up hitting 5-iron. I hit 5-iron. I asked Butchy what the club was, and he said it’s a choked-up perfect 5,” Woodland said. “I hit my shot. When we were walking down, I asked Brooks what he hit, and he said 5. If I would have known that, I probably would have hit 6-iron, and I would have hit 6-iron in the middle of the water. Luckily for me, I didn’t know what he hit. That’s the end of it.”
When Koepka was asked what his caddie told the committee, he said, “I think what they said was they were signaling to somebody else or he was signaling to somebody of what it was. It wasn’t Butchy. Because they asked us what we hit walking down the fairway, so they had no idea.”
He added: “I’m taking my glove off. The last thing I’m going to do is give it to Gary Woodland, the U.S. Open champ. And the funny part about it is I think if he would have known we were hitting five, he would have hit six because I don’t think Gary is that short and he’s 10 in front of me, 12 in front of me.”
On the par-5 15th hole during the first round, Koepka and Woodland hit their tee shots to the same general area with Koepka about 10 yards shorter. Video of the hole showed Koepka hit his second and hand his club back to Elliot. As he stuck the club back in the bag and grabbed Koepka’s putter, Elliot appeared to mouth “five” in the direction of Woodland’s caddie – Brennan Little – not once but twice before Woodland hit his second shot.
Masters 2023 leaderboard: Get the latest news from Augusta
“Wow, so that’s what professional golf has gotten into now, lip reading?” said caddie Andy Martinez, who has caddied on the PGA Tour for more than 50 years, most notably for Johnny Miller and most recently a couple PGA Tour Champions events this season for Michael Allen. “One of my rules is I don’t look in another guy’s bag. My thinking is if you have all the right numbers and you’ve got your player out there and you need help from the other guy, that’s pathetic. I’ve seen guys like that over the year. They almost expect you to tip them off but not from me.”
Given the evidence…@TheMasters
Masters Rules Committee got it so wrong by not penalizing Koepka for his caddie giving info to Butchie.
The Rules Committee did not protect the field.
If Brooks goes on to win this ruling will hold a cloud over this Masters.
— Richard Zokol (@RichardZokol) April 7, 2023
Several veteran caddies, who asked for anonymity because they still have to potentially walk with Koepka and Woodland, said it was a clear violation of Rule 10-2a, and should’ve resulted in a two-stroke penalty.
“It seemed pretty blatant. I think all they had to do was ask Brooks one question: What club did you hit? And that would’ve said all that needs to be said,” said a caddie for a current exempt Tour pro. “That stuff happens but it doesn’t happen vocally. You can go look in the bag and not touch anything and get a pretty good idea. Sometimes, the guys flash fingers to the TV people and you just watch for that. It happens. When he’s vocal like that, that’s a no-no, that’s a violation. I think they both should get dinged. They’re both guilty.”
Another longtime caddie who has been on the bag for more than 10 victories on the Tour said, “I love Ricky to death, I’m struggling with how to put this but it looked awfully suspicious to me … It’s common but you don’t do it like that. Typically, you stand back from the bag and let a caddie look or while you’re cleaning the bottom of the club you hold the club so they get a look. It’s just an unfortunate situation what happened yesterday and what it could mean.”
The longtime caddie said that he spoke to a PGA Tour rules official about Elliott and Koepka’s actions on 15 on Thursday evening, and said the official was incensed and thought Koepka should be penalized, but his hands are tied as the Masters doesn’t fall under its jurisdiction.
The Masters Tournament Committee released the following notice after the completion of play on Thursday: “Following the completion of Brooks Koepka’s round, the committee questioned his caddie and others in the group about a possible incident on No. 15. All involved were adamant that no advice was given or requested. Consequently, the committee determined that there was no breach of the rules.”