SAN FRANCISCO — Rory McIlroy took issue with Brooks Koepka’s comments following the third round of the PGA Championship in which he noted that Dustin Johnson “only” had a single major to his name as he assessed his own chances at winning a third straight Wanamaker Trophy.
Asked about it Sunday following a final-round 68, McIlroy said he was not impressed.
“It’s a very different mentality to bring to golf that I don’t think a lot of golfers have,” said McIlroy, who has won four major championships but none since 2014. “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.”
Johnson took a 1-shot lead into the final round. His lone major title came at the 2016 U.S. Open. Three previous times he held the 54-hole lead in a major and did not go on to win. He captured his 21st PGA Tour title — only Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have more among active players — in June at the Travelers Championship.
Johnson was not able to hold onto the lead Sunday, unable to overcome a 6-under 64 from Collin Morikawa. The 23-year-old became the third-youngest player to win the tournament in the stroke-play era. Johnson finished tied for second after shooting a 68. Koepka fared much worse, shooting a 4-over 74 to end tied for 29th.
Koepka and McIlroy twice dueled last year, with Koepka prevailing at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and then McIlroy winning the Tour Championship, where Koepka finished fourth.
Koepka said last fall he didn’t see the two players having a rivalry.
“I’ve been out here for what, five years?” Koepka said. “Rory hasn’t won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour. So I don’t view it as a rivalry.”
When sizing up the final-round leaderboard, Koepka said he liked his chances at pulling a PGA Championship three-peat … in part because he knew those he was competing against were not as seasoned as him and that Johnson’s lone major title was four years ago.
Koepka has won four majors and for the second year in a row was trying to win the same major for the third straight year.
“I like my chances,” he said. “When I’ve been in this position before, I’ve capitalized. I don’t know, he’s only won one. I’m playing good. We’ll see.”