Column: Rivalries in golf require more than a great year

  • In Sports/Golf
  • 2019-11-05 20:51:30Z
  • By Associated Press

SHANGHAI (AP) - The question was in Chinese, so Rory McIlroy stared aimlessly until his eyes widened suddenly upon hearing two words he could understand.

Brooks Koepka.

McIlroy could only smile, and when the reporter finally finished his question, the interpreter at the HSBC Champions looked over at him and said, "Do you still need me to translate?"

The question was about the "competition" between the two players, which was accurate.


That takes more time than one year - in this case, closer to three months.

McIlroy finds the topic silly, which he should, because golf has developed so many good players over the last five years that what looks like a rivalry now might be forgotten by next year, if not sooner.

This is more like flavor of the month.

"You're still talking about me, though," McIlroy said with a laugh.

It's important to McIlroy that he's part of the conversation, because that's all anyone should want. That was the message Jack Nicklaus shared with Tiger Woods when they were in South Africa for the Presidents Cup in 2003 and Woods was asking about the various rivals Nicklaus faced.

"The top of the men's game is very equal," McIlroy said. "We can all beat each other any given week, and to make it about two people is disrespectful to the likes of Justin Thomas or Dustin Johnson, whoever it might be. It creates a better narrative for the casual fan if it's one guy versus another guy. But the reality is, there are 10, 15 guys that when they play their best can say they're the best in the world."

When the year began, McIlroy wasn't part of the conversation unless it was a long one.

He was No. 8 in the world and had gone nine months without winning, being in serious contention in only a few tournaments. Koepka and Justin Rose ended last year taking turns at No. 1 in the world, and before long Johnson replaced them.

If anything, golf was a battle between Koepka and Johnson for the first half of the year - both had runner-up finishes in the Masters, and Johnson nearly rallied from a seven-shot deficit in the PGA Championship against Koepka until his 5-iron one-hopped over the 16th green at Bethpage Black.

Johnson didn't win the last nine months of the year. Rose was No. 1 when he won at Torrey Pines. He hasn't won since then and now is No. 8.

It's a revolving door.

And now it's Koepka and McIlroy, with just enough history to feed the notion or a rivalry.

Koepka rallied to beat him at a World Golf Championships event. Four weeks later, McIlroy rallied to beat him at the Tour Championship for the FedEx Cup and said of Koepka, "He's turned into a heck of a player over the last couple of years, and I definitely expect more Sundays like that between the both of us in the future."

It will be months before they play in the same tournament.

McIlroy was voted PGA Tour player of the year, which featured no exit polling, margin of victory or how many players even voted.

Koepka has been No. 1 in the world since the middle of May, and he said he wasn't looking behind him and thus didn't consider anyone a rival. He provided more fodder - along with more clicks - by saying in an interview with Agence France-Press that in his five years on the PGA Tour, McIlroy hasn't won a major.

And on it goes.

Jordan Spieth was at the Sony Open in Honolulu to start his year when he mentioned in a news conference how it was only a few years ago that the "Big Three" was being talked about in nearly every interview. The few reporters in the room looked around, trying to recall which three players he meant. Never mind that they were the ones who had been writing about it.

It was Spieth, McIlroy and Jason Day. Remember?

"Not one of us three has been talked about in the last couple years," Spieth said that day. "Everyone is so quick on what's happens. It's today's news."

Spieth has gone more than two years without a win and is No. 42 in the world. Day has gone winless in two of his last three PGA Tour seasons and is barely inside the top 30. McIlroy won once in a span of 50 starts until The Players Championship, and now he can't seem to lose.

Spieth believes it is hard for a real rivalry to develop because there are too many good players, and because everyone likes one another.

"The game is in a good place, but it doesn't have a Phil-Tiger," Spieth said in Shanghai. "It doesn't have a dominant player. Brooks has been pretty close, but as far as a decadeslong dominant player? Rory has been as close as anyone.

"Drama is always what people are searching for," he said, "and there just isn't a whole lot of it as far as player to player."

The alternative is to call it what it is - two guys who have played the best golf this year.


More Related News

Woods-led US crush Els dream to win Presidents Cup
Woods-led US crush Els dream to win Presidents Cup

Tiger Woods' United States produced a stunning turnaround to deny the Internationals a first Presidents Cup in 21 years Sunday, dominating the singles on a tense final day that went to the wire at Royal Melbourne. Veteran Matt Kuchar was the hero, with his winning putt on the 17th in the penultimate

Woods leads from front as U.S. win Presidents Cup
Woods leads from front as U.S. win Presidents Cup

United States captain Tiger Woods led from the front as the Americans dominated the Sunday singles to overhaul the Internationals at Royal Melbourne 16-14 and claim an eighth successive Presidents Cup. Woods clinched a record 27th win in the event with a 3&2 victory over Abraham Ancer to fire up his

Woods sets Presidents Cup record, Americans make their move
Woods sets Presidents Cup record, Americans make their move

Tiger Woods set the Presidents Cup record for most victories and set the tone for his U.S. team Sunday at Royal Melbourne. Woods seized control around the turn against Abraham Ancer and won, 3 and 2, in the first of 12 singles matches. The Americans need to win singles for the first time in 10 years to overcome a two-point deficit against the International team.

Presidents Cup 2019: The Sunday pairings come out amid slight tension between Tiger & Ernie
Presidents Cup 2019: The Sunday pairings come out amid slight tension between Tiger & Ernie

There are many engaging and positive storylines coming out of the 2019 Presidents Cup, and there will be many more to come as the teams head into Sunday singles in an outright duel, with the Internationals holding a slim 10-8 lead. Slim, but meaningful-it's the first time they've held a lead before the final session since 2003. Despite the terrific captaincy of Ernie Els, the late surge of the Americans, and the increasing involvement of a rabid Aussie crowd, it's also true that this particular Presidents Cup can't escape the specter of Patrick Reed.

'Captain America' Reed plugged in 0-3 hole at Presidents Cup

Patrick Reed's dismal Presidents Cup continued on Saturday as he and Webb Simpson slumped to a third successive defeat at Royal Melbourne, the U.S. pair going down 5&3 to the Internationals' Hideki Matsuyama and CT Pan in the morning fourballs. Little has gone right for the man nicknamed 'Captain America', who has been heckled by spectators throughout the event following his controversial waste bunker penalty in the Bahamas last week. Reed and Simpson lost to Japan's Matsuyama and Taiwanese debutant Pan in the Thursday fourballs before being beaten by Marc Leishman and Mexico's Abraham Ancer in the foursomes the following day.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: Golf