Brooks Koepka: 'Hard to believe there's a rivalry in golf'

Brooks Koepka is the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world.

Rory McIlroy is No. 2.

In September, McIlroy edged Koepka for the Jack Nicklaus Award for PGA Tour Player of the Year honors after a surprising vote by Tour members -- after McIlroy beat Koepka in the final round of the season-ending Tour Championship to win a $15 million bonus.

Koepka won PGA of America Player of the Year based on points.

But don't call them rivals. Or anybody else, for that matter.

Koepka told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Wednesday that he doesn't consider McIlroy a rival because the Northern Irishman hasn't won a major championship since Koepka joined the Tour in 2014.

"I've been out here for, what, five years," Koepka told AFP on Wednesday. "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 actually is not true. McIlroy's last major title -- the fourth of his career -- came at the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club, during Koepka's first full-time season on Tour. Koepka finished tied for 15th at that event, seven shots behind McIlroy.

Koepka's comments came ahead of this week's CJ Cup at Nine Bridges at Jeju Island, South Korea. He won the event last year by four strokes.

McIlroy and Koepka were the only PGA Tour players to win three events last season. McIlroy won the Players Championship, Canadian Open and Tour Championship. Including his FedEx Cup and Wyndham Reward bonuses, McIlroy won $24.3 million last season, the most in Tour history.

Koepka, 29, won four major championship in the previous three seasons. He finished in the top five in the last five majors, including all four in 2019. He finished tied for second at the Masters, won the PGA Championship for the second straight year at Bethpage Black, finished solo second at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and tied for fourth at the Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

"I'm not looking at anybody behind me," Koepka told AFP. "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 revealed earlier this month that he recently underwent stem-cell treatment to repair a partially torn patella tendon in his left knee. He had the procedure the day after the final round of the Tour Championship at East Lake. He missed the cut at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas in his first event this season.

Koepka said he might have one more stem-cell treatment before the end of the year, but the long-term prognosis is good.

"My knee's fine. It feels good," Koepka told reporters in South Korea. "It bugged me for about -- since March, maybe, but everything's fine now. Did my rehab, my recovery and there shouldn't be any issues. ... My knee feels good. It's the first time it's been feeling consistently good in a while."