Brooks Koepka’s dismissive comments about a potential rivalry blossoming between himself and Rory McIlroy have been golf-talk fodder for the past week, and on Monday during “The Challenge: Japan Skins,” the other half of the would-be rivalry spoke.
Answering questions from on-course reporter Henni Zuel, McIlroy was his usual measured, yet candid self what asked what he made of Koepka’s comments.
“I think it’s hard,” McIlroy said. “We’ve all had it where we get asked in press conferences about other players. I’ve had it where it’s like, why are these guys asking me about someone else, are we not supposed to be here to be talking about me? And like, what Brooks said wasn’t wrong. He’s been the best player in the world the last couple of years, four majors.
“I don’t think he had to remind me that I hadn’t won one in a while. But I love Brooks, he’s a great guy and obviously super competitive like we all are. I guess I can see where he’s coming from; we’re out here, we can’t control anyone else, we just have to play our own golf. And look, I said a couple of things after the Tour Championship that I approached that final round like a rivalry because he got one over on me in Memphis and I sort of wanted to get him back.
“I think that’s good for the game. I think if you take what Brooks said out of context then obviously it can become this big thing that it’s become, but Brooks and I are good, we’re good friends and I’ve been really happy for him just to see how he’s played the last couple of years.”
Last week ahead of the CJ Cup, Koepka dismissed the notion of a McIlroy rivalry by pointing out the Ulsterman’s performances in major championships since Koepka has really come onto the scene.
“I’ve been out here for, what, five years. Rory hasn’t won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour. So I just don’t view it as a rivalry,” Koepka said bluntly. “I’m not looking at anybody behind me. I’m number one in the world. I’ve got open road in front of me I’m not looking in the rearview mirror, so I don’t see it as a rivalry.
“You know if the fans do (call it a rivalry), then that’s on them and it could be fun. “Look, I love Rory he’s a great player and he’s fun to watch, but it’s just hard to believe there’s a rivalry in golf. I just don’t see it.”
Koepka withdrew from the CJ Cup last week citing knee issues. McIlroy, ranked No. 2 in the world, is in the field at this week’s Zozo Championship in Japan.