Brooks Koepka shrugged off the lingering debate over a controversial ruling to strengthen his bid for a fifth major title in the 87th Masters.
Koepka shared the overnight lead with Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland after an opening 65 at Augusta National and was relishing an early start on Friday, with rain and thunderstorms forecast later in the day.
The former world number one quickly moved to the top of the leaderboard with a birdie on the par-five second and followed a run of five pars with an eagle from 13 feet on the eighth.
That took Koepka to 10 under par and into a three-shot lead over Jason Day, the Australian having birdied the second and third.
While Koepka was out on the course, an incident from his first round continued to be debated after TV footage appeared to show his caddie Ricky Elliott saying “five” to playing partner Gary Woodland’s caddie on the 15th.
If that was deemed to have been advice on which club Koepka had just hit into the par five it would be a breach of the rules, but the pair were quickly cleared of any wrongdoing.
“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,” James B. Hyler, Jr, Chairman of Competition Committees, said in a statement.
“All involved were adamant that no advice was given or requested. Consequently, the Committee determined that there was no breach of the rules.”
However, former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, speaking in his role as an analyst for Golf Channel, said: “It’s very obvious… it’s staggering that they’ve denied it because the evidence is there.
“This is common practice on tour. Whether you like it or not, it happens in every professional tournament around the world.
“If the authorities want to stamp this out (they would) really come down on this and make an example of it, and obviously they haven’t. They’ve chosen not to do that and it looked very clearly the evidence was against them.”
Experienced caddie Craig Connelly, who works for two-time major winner Martin Kaymer, said on Twitter the incident was an “absolute non-starter” in his mind.
“Happens every single day, multiple times a round,” Connelly wrote. “And, if there’s a caddie on here who says they’ve never done it, then they’re talking s****!”