Rory McIlroy says Brooks Koepka’s comments gave him extra motivation
A few weeks ago, World No. 1 Brooks Koepka made it clear that he doesn’t really think Rory McIlroy belongs in his same class.
“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 told the AFP. “I’m not looking at anybody behind me. … I’m No. 1 in the world. I’ve got open road in front of me and I’m not looking in the rearview mirror, so I don’t see it as a rivalry.”
Well, McIlroy heard him. And now the World No. 2 is definitively closer in that rearview after beating Xander Schauffele in a playoff to win Sunday’s WGC-HSBC Champions in China.
“Look, I don’t think I’d be a competitor if there wasn’t extra motivation there. I mean of course,” McIlroy told Brad Faxon on his SiriusXM radio show “Just the Fax” Monday.
“I can get where Brooks was coming from but yeah, of course it gives me motivation. When somebody says something like that, you’re not a true competitor if you don’t feel something after that. But my thing is, I’m good with Brooks, I just want to let my clubs do the talking and for the last couple weeks I’ve been able to do that and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
Faxon followed up with a perfectly timed question. “Did you get a text from Brooks Koepka after you won?”
There was a long pause before McIlroy responded. “No.”
With the win, McIlroy picked up a significant number of World Ranking points and now sits second at 10.38 points, while Koepka maintains his lead with 11.47. Neither is likely to play much coming up; Koepka has been suffering from a knee injury while McIlroy is already looking ahead to an eight-week offseason, he said.
Faxon also praised the way McIlroy handles his relationship with his wife Erica, who tends to lay low during wins. In doing so, he drew (intentionally or not) another contrast with Koepka, whose relationship with Jena Sims has found plenty of TV time.
“I’ve gotta commend you, the way you win a tournament, and you’ve won a lot of them this year, you don’t ever see the profile with Erica and do the staged pictures like so many players do,” Faxon said. “I respect that, I like that you keep it private, not a lot of players do it, but it’s another one of the great things…”
“Yeah, it’s not something that’s ever really been important,” McIlroy said. “It’s funny, it’s almost like it goes the complete opposite where sometimes after I win a tournament I can’t find Erica for an hour because you’re whisked away, you’re doing media, you’re doing whatever, so sometimes she’s the last person I see.”
McIlroy celebrated his win with a dinner out in Shanghai with caddie Harry Diamond and Mitchell Tweedie, another Northern Irishman pal who manages golfers for Octagon. Then it was a lengthy flight home, with McIlroy ultimately arriving back in Palm Beach, Fla., at 1:30 a.m.
Of course, we’re guessing jet lag is easier to manage when you’re bringing home a trophy.