Rory McIlroy hit out at Brooks Koepka’s «mind games» at the US PGA Championship, with the former world number one insisting he tries to respect everyone.
Koepka aimed a dig at US PGA rival and overnight leader Dustin Johnson prior to Sunday’s final round, highlighting the fact that the latter had only won one major compared to his four.
Bidding to achieve a US PGA three-peat, Koepka was forced to eat his words as the American star fell out of contention in San Francisco, where Johnson continued to battle atop the leaderboard.
McIlroy, who ended his TPC Harding Park campaign in a tie for 33rd following his two-under-par 68, was taken aback by Koepka’s comments.
«It’s different, right, it’s a very different mentality to bring to golf that I don’t think a lot of golfers have,» McIlroy said during his post-round news conference.
«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 DJ really gives much of a concern [to] that.
«But just different. I certainly 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 that’s got 21 wins on the PGA Tour, which is three times what Brooks has.»
McIlroy has not managed a top-10 performance since finishing tied for fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March prior to the coronavirus-enforced break.
The four-time major champion signed off at the US PGA with an eagle, two birdies and a pair of bogeys.
McIlroy said: «I’m happy just to be out on the golf course. So many people that still can’t get back to work. I was even saying there, even where I live in Florida, it feels like a bubble. Not much has been locked down, sort of been able to go about our daily lives with not much interruption.
«I’m happy to be playing golf and grateful that we’re still able to play out here. I haven’t played as well as I’ve wanted to, but it beats being sat on the couch at home, so I’ll take it.»
McIlroy has not won a major tournament since 2014 and when asked about his struggles, the 31-year-old replied: «Maybe I’m just not as good as I used to be.
«I really don’t know. I feel like the golf that I’ve played in the majors has been sort of similar to the golf I’ve played outside of them, and I’ve won some big events and played well and had a good season last season.
«I can’t really put my finger on it. I go out there and try my best every single day. Some days I play better than others, and just got to keep going and keep persisting and see if you can do better the next time.»