JEJU • World No. 1 Brooks Koepka took a big swipe at notions of a rivalry with Rory McIlroy yesterday, pointing out that the Northern Irishman had not won a Major since the American joined the PGA Tour.
"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," the American told AFP ahead of his defence of the CJ Cup in Jeju, South Korea which begins today.
Second-ranked McIlroy's last Major victory came at the 2014 PGA Championship, while Koepka was still playing on the European Tour and yet to take up his PGA Tour card.
Koepka, 29, equalled the Northern Irishman's four-Major total at the PGA Championship in May while McIlroy, 30, rounded off the season by winning the FedEx Cup for a second time and being voted the PGA Tour's player of the year.
McIlroy had stoked the fires by saying he used a rivalry mentality to help him win the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake at the end of August.
"He (Koepka) talked about trying to be the dominant player in the game... and I thought, 'He's going to have to go through me first'," declared McIlroy. "If that's both of our mentalities going forward, I think that's good for the game."
He is only the second player after Tiger Woods to win the season-long FedEx Cup race multiple times. As well as the Tour Championship-FedEx Cup double, his season also included victories at The Players Championship and the RBC Canadian Open.
Rivalry or not, Koepka and McIlroy will lock horns next at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai in two weeks with the single-minded Koepka refusing to focus on anybody other than himself.
"I'm not looking at anybody behind me," he said. "I'm No. 1 in the world. I've got open road in front of me. I'm not looking in the rear-view 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."
The US$9.75 million (S$13.4 million) CJ Cup kicks off the PGA Tour's new-look Asian Swing, with the world's top golfers lured by megabucks in three tournaments with no cuts.
The CJ Cup will be followed by the Tour's first foray into Japan at the Zozo Championship next week with an identical purse on offer.
The swing concludes at the WGC-HSBC Champions, which has seen its prize fund beefed up to US$10.25 million.
Koepka will be joined on Jeju Island by drawcards such as Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth and Sergio Garcia. His fellow Major champions Justin Thomas, the 2017 winner here, Jason Day, Patrick Reed, Graeme McDowell, Danny Willett and Gary Woodland are also among the world-class field lifting the curtain on the three-week jaunt.