Brooks Koepka wants you to know that he has no rivals.
Unlike most athletes today, if you’re wondering how the four-time major champ feels about something, all you have to do is ask him. Koepka attacks press conferences as mercilessly as he attacks majors.
On Wednesday in South Korea, ahead of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges, Koepka was asked about his rivalry with Rory McIlroy, the world No. 2 and fellow winner of four majors.
“I’ve been out here for, what, five years,” Koepka told AFP. “Rory hasn’t won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour. So I just don’t view it as a rivalry.”
That’s the kind of shot golfers usually yell ‘Fore!’ before delivering. It’s also exactly why every interview with Koepka is worth getting popcorn for. His brash attitude is so different than what we’ve come to expect from polished golfers who tend to be guarded in conversation, especially when it comes to speaking about their rivals (or non-rivals).
McIlroy ranks just below Koepka when it comes to openness with the media, but has become slightly more diplomatic after getting burned a few times. Fact is, nobody tells it like it is right now in the game like Koepka. Perhaps Jack Nicklaus, but he’s speaking from the top of golf’s Mount Rushmore. And in general, how many 79-year-olds pull their punches?
This isn’t the world No. 1 stirring the pot for dramatic effect, Koepka’s been very consistent on where he feels his position in the game is for quite some time now. In his mind it’s simple, there’s him and then there’s everyone else.
Two weeks ago in Las Vegas he was asked about losing player of the year voting to McIlroy. After saying that he doesn’t play the game to win awards, he compared himself to LeBron James who has won NBA MVP just four times despite being the game’s dominant player for a decade. He then added: “Yeah, it would’ve been great, but I think everybody in this room knows.”
In case it wasn’t clear enough, he also added this gem: “Right now I can set that pace, and, you know, everybody is in the rear view mirror.”
The golf world is always looking for its next great rivalry. Don’t tell Koepka, but if there wasn’t one between him and McIlroy before, there might be one now.
HERE COME THE BIG GUNS
The best stretch of tournaments of the PGA Tour’s fall schedule is set to begin Thursday morning in South Korea, which is Wednesday evening here in North America.
The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges begins a three-week run of events that will feature the game’s biggest stars. This week, defending champ Koepka is in the field, along with notables such as Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Hideki Matsuyama, and last year’s rookie of the year Sungjae Im.
Next week in Japan, Tiger Woods will make his 2019-20 debut at the inaugural ZOZO Championship. A week later, the top players will all get together at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China.
Corey Conners is the only Canadian in the field this week in South Korea.
Adam Hadwin originally planned to play, but a recent surge in his world ranking to 42nd has earned him a spot in the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in two weeks time. Hadwin will play next week in Japan and then head to China, rather than play all three weeks of the Asia swing.
The 31-year-old credits his hot start (runner-up in Napa, T4 in Las Vegas) to feeling fresh and rested heading into the season. He likely didn’t want to risk changing that with a three-week work trip to Asia. Hadwin told me in Las Vegas that he and caddie Joe Cruz spent much of his final round 63 at TPC Summerlin discussing whether or not to tee it up in South Korea.
Roger Sloan and Mackenzie Hughes nearly had a chance to play this week. The CJ Cup is open to the top 60 available players from last season’s FedEx Cup standings. Luke List, who finished 92nd last year, was the final player to make it into the field in that category after higher ranked players declined. Sloan finished 93rd and Hughes 98th.
A couple of familiar Canadian names in women’s golf will be missed on golf courses in 2020. Maude-Aimee Leblanc announced on social media that she is retiring from professional golf. Also, F-D Rouleau of Le Journal de Montreal reports that A.C. Tanguay is stepping away from the game for a year to spend time with her family and deal with a back injury. … Meanwhile, in the Senior LPGA Championship in Indiana, Lee Ann Walker was assessed 56 penalty strokes over the first two rounds for repeated (very repeated) violations of the rule regarding caddies lining up players on greens. Walker’s 127 in round one included 42 penalty strokes. Looks like someone forgot to read the new rulebook.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019