Why in 2019, McIlroy comes out on top over Koepka

Bernie McGuire

Rory McIlroy & Brooks Koepka (Photo: Getty Images)

Aussie golfer Geoff Ogilvy stamped his golfing credentials when winning a US Open, three WGC titles and eight other worldwide victories in his career.

In more recent years, the now 42-year old has been earning plaudits for his observations from outside the competition ropes.

And in a latest Golf Australia article, the winner of the 106th U.S. Open at famed Winged Foot has spoken of his overall fondness for one fellow U.S. Open winner over a recent back-to-back second US Open champion.


Ogilvy’s very insightful article examines the qualities of Rory McIlroy when compared to Brooks Koepka, with Ogilvy not only drawing on statistics of the pair over the course of 2019 but looking at the duo from a fellow PGA Tour playing colleague’s view.

It’s a real looking from the inside out magazine piece rather than the outside in approach and goes to the heart, in many ways, of why McIlroy is far more popular in the bigger world golfing picture than his American rival.

In breaking down Ogilvy’s 1,230 word essay, I am going to use just two chapters while all comments in inverted commas hereunder are those of Ogilvy.

Performance in the Majors?

“There are those who will automatically go for Brooks. He won a major championship in a year when Rory did not add to his total of four. But that is too simplistic, especially when you consider that Rory won his third Vardon Trophy, which goes to the man with the lowest stroke average for the season. Then again, we also need to consider that the year is far from over, at least for Rory, on the European Tour. So maybe all we are thinking about is “Player of the Year so far.”

“Let’s look at Brooks first. No one, it is fair to say, played the major championships better than he did this year. Second in The Masters, first at the US PGA, second at the US Open and fourth at The Open Championship represents a pretty formidable body of work. He finished ahead of Rory in all four, too.

“Winning a major is hard to beat, a tough thing to match. But having played well just about every week, I’d have to bet Rory has enjoyed his year more than Brooks. In 19 PGA Tour starts, Rory recorded an extraordinary 14 top-10 finishes, although he did miss two halfway cuts. In his 21 events, Brooks had nine top-10. Not bad. But he also finished 50th or worse on five occasions, as well as missing one cut.

“So do we go with overall consistency, or give more credit to that major win? This isn’t easy.

“Still, I’m coming round to voting for Rory. If we assume that the point of any professional golfer’s job is to play well as much as possible – and have as much fun as you can along the way – he has to get the edge. Which is not to say Brooks won’t have had a lot of fun over the course of the season. But he has had a lot more bad weeks than Rory. He’s been more up-and-down. So week-to-week, Rory has more often than not been the guy with the bigger smile on his face. He has pretty much always been competing, nearly always part of the mix, which is the ultimate fun.”

Ogilvy’s vote – McIlroy

From a Player’s Perspective ?

“I’m leaning towards Rory’s year being the better of the two. Only leaning though. From a historical perspective, Brooks’ year is probably going to be remembered more and for longer. Which is the case any time you win at least one of the four most important events in the game. Like it or not, neither the Players nor the FedExCup has anything like the historical impact of a major title.

“.. one of the hardest things to do in golf is play your best when you’re trying your hardest to play your best. It is easy to start forcing things at majors. We saw that, I think, with Rory during the Open Championship at Royal Portrush. Playing at home in Northern Ireland his emotions got the better of him, even though he was playing well at the time – as his 65 on day two showed.

“On the other hand, Brooks does seem to handle extreme levels of pressure better than just about anyone. He is unflappable. Look at the way he has won his majors. In all four he has answered every question that came his way. No one does that. No one since Tiger anyway.

“Then again, while Brooks’ game is amazing, Rory’s looks to be more fun. When he is playing well, no one appears to be enjoying himself more than Rory.

“As I said, I would have enjoyed Rory’s year more. But if I was sitting down at Christmas and looking back ,I would be pretty happy with Brooks’ year too.

“Then again (there’s that phrase again), more and more people are buying into the fact that The Players is almost on the level of a major. It has an incredible field and Sawgrass is a tough place to go and win. I know I never really worked out how to play well there. So Rory deserves big points for winning it this year.

“Okay, it is decision-time. I’m going with Rory. The “fun” argument is the strongest for me. So, although Brooks has played great at big times, Rory has played more really good golf over the last 12 months. He will have felt more satisfaction than Brooks. I always played golf to hit good shots. I loved my job when I was hitting the ball well, scoring well and doing well in tournaments. And when I wasn’t doing those things, I wasn’t enjoying myself. Not really.

“Ultimately, that’s my measure for “Player of the Year.” Not the most profitable. Not the guy who popped up at the “right” times. But the guy who played great most often. So it is Rory for me.”

Ogilvy’s vote – Rory McIlroy

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