Shots were fired after the golf ended at TPC Harding Park on Saturday night as Brooks Koepka, seeking a historic three-peat at the PGA Championship seemed to dismiss his former workout partner, 54-hole leader Dustin Johnson.
“I like my chances,” Koepka said. “When I’ve been in this position before, I’ve capitalized. I don’t know, (Johnson)’s only won one. I’m playing good. I don’t know, we’ll see.”
Koepka has never been short of confidence, but even Rory McIlroy, who was watching the golf on TV, said he was taken aback by Koepka’s comments.
“It’s a very different mentality to bring to golf that I don’t think a lot of golfers have,” McIlroy said. “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 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.”
And then McIlroy dropped the hammer on Koepka: “Yeah, 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.”
In a pre-tournament interview with Golfweek, Koepka explained that he enjoys a lone wolf mentality on Tour and isn’t looking to be buddies with his fellow players. He and Johnson used to be considered golf’s version of the Bash Brothers, but Koepka says that is no more. “That got blown out of proportion because we worked out in the same gym. We no longer do that,” he said. “All of last year at least we weren’t working out together.”
And speaking after Saturday’s round, Koepka explained his success at the majors: “It’s just a comfort level,” he said. “I feel very comfortable around the lead in the big events.”
Koepka, who is seeking his fifth major title, would become the fastest to do so if he were to win today. It’s 1,148 days since he won the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills.