Koepka admits McIlroy is his biggest rival: “I want to be a little bit better than him”

Ronan MacNamara

Brooks Koepka (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Five-time major winner and reigning US PGA champion, Brooks Koepka admits that Rory McIlroy is his biggest rival and believes that the Northern Irishman will land that elusive fifth major.

In an interview with golf.com Koepka, who plies his trade on the LIV Golf Tour, admits that staying head of McIlroy in the golfing ladder is a huge motivating factor for him.

In 2019, when he won his fourth major, Koepka said he didn’t consider McIlroy as a rival to him as he hadn’t won a major since he began playing at the top level.

Five years on however, and Koepka listed Rory as the one player he would love to play every single round for the rest of his life.

“Most people are probably going to hate this answer, but like Rory, right?”

The American has developed a close friendship with McIlroy, particularly since moving to LIV Golf and he feels a fifth major for the Holywood man is just around the corner.

“Because I feel like maybe —divulging a lot — but there’s a competition that I’m (not) sure maybe he’s that way or not, but like, okay, I’ve gotta get one more than him and then he’s going to try … he’s gonna get to five soon.”

If McIlroy gets to five then Koepka is desperate to get to six so he can stay on top of him.

“And it’s like a one-up thing… we’re the same age, I think he’s like a year older, but you know where we are in the game for me, it’s like okay, I want to try to be a little bit better than him because I think he’s arguably one of the best players ever. So it’s just trying to one up. For me, that’s how it feels anyway.”

“Okay, I show up at a major, I want to try to make sure that I can get a big enough lead before he starts closing that gap,” Koepka said. “So, for me, that’s the way it goes.”

McIlroy gave himself a four major head start over Koepka between 2011 and 2014 when he reeled off two US PGA Championships, a US Open and an Open Championship – although a Masters continues to elude him and his wait for a Career Grand Slam goes on.

But it’s ten years since McIlroy lifted his last major title and since then Koepka has burst from the Challenge Tour and lapped him, picking up four between 2017 and 2019 before winning his fifth at last year’s PGA Championship.

While he considers him a rival now, Koepka didn’t always consider McIlroy a threat.

“I’ve been out here for, what, five years,” Koepka said in October 2019, when he’d matched McIlroy with four major wins.

“Rory hasn’t won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour. So I just don’t view it as a rivalry. I’m not looking at anybody behind me.

“I’m No. 1 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.”

Now, it’s about keeping the foot on the gas for Koepka before the major floodgates open again for Rory.

As he told golf.com: “I want to try to make sure that I can get a big enough lead before he starts closing that gap.”

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