McIlroy, Koepka 'too nice' to have a rivalry like Woods, Mickelson - DiMarco

Chris DiMarco says there are too many top talents for a two-way rivalry to develop in modern golf.

Good friends: Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka.   -  Getty Images

Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka are "too nice" to engage in the sort of rivalry that once existed between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, says Chris DiMarco.

Back in October, Koepka, winner of four majors between the 2017 US Open and 2019 US PGA Championship and ranked No. 1 in the world, dismissed the notion of McIlroy being one of his nearest challengers for golf's biggest prizes. "I've been out here for, what, five years. Rory hasn't won a major since I've been on the PGA Tour. So I just don't view it as a rivalry," Koepka said.

McIlroy took a diplomatic approach in his reply, saying Koepka had not said anything out of turn and the two are good friends. "I love Brooks, he's a great guy," McIlroy said of the comments."He's obviously super-competitive, like we all are. I can see where he's coming from.

"I think if you take what Brooks said out of context then it can become this big thing that it's become. But Brooks and I are good, we're good friends."

McIlroy then recorded seven consecutive finishes inside the top five to return to the summit of the rankings prior to the suspension of the PGA and European Tours as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. But DiMarco believes there is too much talent in the game now for two players to engage in a genuine rivalry such as the one Woods and Mickelson – where he said there was once a "genuine dislike" – had during the 2000s.

'Too many great players'

"The problem is both those guys are so nice, like literally to everybody," DiMarco told Stats Perform.

"So, it just seems if there is a rivalry between them it's almost kind of made up. They kind of live in the same area, it's almost like they talked to each other and said, 'let's just kind of jab back and forth with each other and make a rivalry'. They're too nice. 

"There's really in all honesty just too many great players right now. Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson there's too many – Rickie Fowler – for two people to just kind of make themselves higher than anyone else, I don't think it's going to happen anymore.

'Genuine dislike'

"Obviously, Rory and Brooks over the last two years have probably been the best two but Dustin Johnson has been up there, Jon Rahm was looking like he could be No. 1 here with a win a couple of weeks ago.

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"There are a lot of hungry players out there and you're never going to see a rivalry kind of like you saw with Tiger and Phil, that's what people wanted to see because there was a genuine dislike for each other.

Fierce rivals: Tiger Woods (right) and Phil Mickelson. - AP

 

"Now they're friendly, so now it's a little bit different, but back then there was a genuine dislike for each other, and they were clearly the No. 1 and No. 2 player in the world for many years so that rivalry you want to see. I think these kids nowadays are just nice, and that's great, I love it, I always played as a nice guy too."

The villain

However, DiMarco does feel there is one player who would happily play the role of villain against either McIlroy or Koepka. "I think the one guy who is probably a disliked guy out there on our Tour or the regular Tour is Patrick Reed," DiMarco added.

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"If he ever makes it to No. 1 then there's that guy people would love to hate again, he relishes in that, he loves being in that position, loves it when people give him crap. 

"If you could get a guy like Brooks Koepka – or Rory McIlroy – and Patrick Reed who maintain that level for so long, then you certainly have your true villain in Patrick Reed and your true good guy in one of those other guys."

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