Brooks Koepka ruffled some feathers in the golf world ahead of last week’s CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in South Korea when Koepka said he doesn’t believe there’s a rivalry with Rory McIlroy on the sheer basis Rory McIlroy hasn’t won a major in five years.
On Monday ahead of the made-for-TV The Challenge: Japan Skins, McIlroy kind of agreed with Koepka’s assessment of the situation.
“What Brooks said wasn’t wrong. I mean, he’s been the best player in the world the last couple years – four majors. I don’t think he had to remind me that I haven’t won one in a while,” McIlroy said in Japan.
“I love Brooks, he’s a great guy. Obviously super competitive, like we all are. I guess I can see where he’s coming from.”
Koepka is the world No. 1 by a large margin in the Official World Golf Ranking, won the PGA Championship in 2019, took home two other PGA Tour trophies on the season and finished in the top five in all four majors. It’s a rare year.
However, McIlroy enjoyed an outstanding year of his own. He won three times, including The Players Championship, which many of McIlroy’s peers rate as a major-caliber victory, and he ran a strokes-gained figure not seen this side of Tiger Woods’ peak. Along with winning the FedEx Cup, McIlroy’s year was enough to earn him the peer-voted PGA Tour Player of the Year award. (Who knows how much personal rapport with each player had a hand in the voting, but it’s naive not to acknowledge them.)
With McIlroy’s win at East Lake to take the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup’s $15 million first-place prize, there was talk of a potential budding rivalry. Koepka swatted that down solely on how the pair have played the majors.
“I’ve been out here for what, five years,” Koepka said in South Korea. “Rory hasn’t won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour. So I don’t view it as a rivalry.”
However, McIlroy took it more as a statement of record, not so much throwing down a gauntlet or Koepka stiff-arming McIlroy.
“I think if you take what Brooks said out of context then it can become this big thing that it’s become,” McIlroy said. “But Brooks and I are good, we’re good friends.”