Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka are “too nice” to engage in the kind of rivalry that once existed between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, says Chris DiMarco.
Already in October, Koepka, winner of four majors between the 2017 US Open and the 2019 US PGA Championship and 1st place in the world, rejected the idea that McIlroy would be one of his next challengers for the biggest golf awards.
“I’ve been out here for five years. Rory hasn’t won a major since participating in the PGA Tour. I just don’t see it as a rivalry,” said Koepka.
McIlroy responded diplomatically, saying Koepka had said nothing out of the ordinary and the two were good friends.
“I love Brooks, he’s a great guy,” McIlroy said to the comments. “He’s obviously very competitive like all of us. I can see where he comes from.”
“I think if you take what Brooks said out of context it can become the big thing it has become. But Brooks and I are good, we’re good friends.”
McIlroy then posted seven consecutive top 5 finishes to return to the top of the rankings before the PGA and European Tours were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But DiMarco believes that there is now too much talent in the game for two players to engage in a real rivalry like that of Woods and Mickelson in the 2000s – where he said there was once a “real dislike”.
“The problem is that these two boys are as nice as literally everyone,” DiMarco told Stats Perform.
“Well, it only seems that if there is a rivalry between them, it is almost somehow invented. They somehow live in the same area, it is almost as if they had spoken to each other and said: ‘Let’s just go a little bit come here and make a rivalry, they’re too nice.
“To be honest, there are really too many great players at the moment. Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, there are too many – Rickie Fowler – for two people to just make themselves higher than everyone else, I don’t think there will be more.
“Of course Rory and Brooks were probably the best two in the past two years, but Dustin Johnson was up there. Jon Rahm looked like he could be number one here with a win a few weeks ago.
“There are a lot of hungry players out there and you will never see a rivalry like you saw with Tiger and Phil. People wanted to see that because there was a real dislike of each other.
“Now they are friendly, now it is a little different, but at that time there was a real dislike for one another and for many years they were clearly number one and number two in the world, so you want to see rivalry.
“I think these kids are just nice these days, and that’s great, I love it, I’ve always played as a nice guy.”
However, DiMarco feels there is a player who would like to play the role of a villain against McIlroy or Koepka.
“I think the only guy who is unlikely to be liked on our tour or the regular tour is Patrick Reed,” added DiMarco.
“If he ever makes it to number one, there is this guy that people would love to hate again. He enjoys it. He loves being in this position. He loves it when people give him crap.”
“If you could get a man like Brooks Koepka – or Rory McIlroy – and Patrick Reed who have maintained this level for so long, you are sure to have your real bad guy in Patrick Reed and your real good guy in one of those other guys.”