Rory McIlroy 'Taken Aback' by Brooks Koepka's Criticism of Dustin Johnson

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2020

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, left, listens to Brooks Koepka at they walk to the clubhouse during a rain delay during the second round of the Honda Classic golf tournament, Friday, Feb. 27, 2015 in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
Luis M. Alvarez/Associated Press

Rory McIlroy was "taken aback" by Brooks Koepka's possible attempt to play mind games with Dustin Johnson heading into the final round of the PGA Championship.  

Bob Harig of ESPN set the scene, noting Koepka said he liked his chances to win the title and pointed out Johnson has "only" one major victory on his resume. Koepka has won four majors and is going for his third straight PGA Championship title.

As for McIlroy, he defended Johnson and pointed out how hard it is to win a major, which he has also done four times:

"It's a very different mentality to bring to golf that I don't think a lot of golfers have. I was watching the golf last night and heard the interview and was just sort of taken aback a little bit by sort of what he said and whether he was trying to play mind games or not.

"If he's trying to play mind games, he's trying to do it to the wrong person. I don't think D.J. really gives much of a concern (to) that. But just different. I try to respect everyone out here. Everyone is a great player. If you've won a major championship, you're a hell of a player. Doesn't mean you've only won one: you've won one, and you've had to do a lot of good things to do that.

"I mean, sort of hard to knock a guy who's got 21 wins on the PGA Tour, which is three times what Brooks has."

Harig pointed out Koepka didn't hesitate to criticize McIlroy in the past when asked if they have a rivalry, saying of the player who has not won a major since 2014, "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 don't view it as a rivalry."

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As for the 2020 PGA Championship, Johnson entered Sunday's final round with a one-stroke lead at nine under.

Koepka was part of a crowded field behind him at seven under.