You could argue the current top-two world-ranked golfers in Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy have their New Year compass bearings all wrong.
American-born Koepka is starting his New Year at this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in Abu Dhabi while McIlroy, who was a regular feature at the start of a new season in the UAE, will kick-start 2020 next week at Torrey Pines in California.
Koepka is this week teeing-up for a first occasion since late October when a left knee injury forced the four-time Major winner out of the final two rounds of a PGA Tour event in South Korea.
The American qualified automatically for December’s USA Presidents Cup team but was forced to withdraw.
Since suffering the injury, Koepka has seen McIlroy voted by their fellow PGA Tour peers as the 2019 PGA Tour ‘Player of the Year’ and it’s resulted in a phony war of sorts between the pair with Koepka and McIlroy making comments here and there about their individual stature.
The latest was from McIlroy with the PGA Tour last week posting a story on McIlroy and quoting the Northern Irishman at a function at TPC Sawgrass where McIlroy captured last year’s Players Championship, stating:
“I believe on my day I’m the best player in the world and I think I can do that for a long time.”
Koepka found himself facing that statement in speaking to journalists ahead of this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
“He (McIlroy) should be saying that and he should believe that,” said Koepka.
“Everybody playing should think that. I mean, if you don’t think you’re the best player, what’s the point. Everybody comes here trying to win.
“That’s the goal. If you don’t believe you’re the best deep down, then there’s something wrong with you. You might as well quit.”
Koepka’s main focus though ahead of a first tournament in nearly three months is putting his knee injury behind him.
“When you have something you love and it’s taken away from you, I think it makes you appreciate it more and really enjoy being out here,” he said.
“I mean, I miss competition. I’ve missed showing up to an event preparing for something, because I haven’t had anything to prepare for.
“When you have three months off, it’s not fun, I know that. But it makes me appreciate the game more every time and hopefully I don’t have anymore of those situations.”
Defending champ, Shane Lowry got his first look at the course in the 12 months since his wire-to-wire victory a year ago playing a nine-hole practice round mid-afternoon Tuesday local time.