2020 Masters Choose Your Own Adventure: Rory McIlroy vs. Brooks Koepka, Part I
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images. Pictured: Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy
2:10 p.m.: Brooks Koepka (-9) and Rory McIlroy (-9)
Great decision to walk with this group. If the game has a true rivalry right now, it’s this one, despite what Koepka rightfully argued six months ago: “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 don’t view it as a rivalry.”
You know it had to burn McIlroy to take the high road and admit, “What Brooks said wasn’t wrong. I mean, he’s been the best player in the world the last couple years – four majors. I don’t think he had to remind me that I haven’t won one in a while.”
Indeed, it’s been more than a half-decade since Rory’s last major victory – and there isn’t one he wants more than this. Nine years ago, at the age of 22, he held the lead going into the back-nine, only to hook a tee shot on 10 toward some hidden cabins, make triple-bogey, then post a 43 on that side, finishing in a share of 15th place. Two years ago, he trailed only Patrick Reed entering the final round, but pushed his opening tee shot way right and never seriously challenged for the title.
A win today would make him the sixth member of golf’s most exclusive club – those who have won the career grand slam. This might be, though, the toughest possible pairing for Rory.
The brawny Brooks can be intimidating even to his world-class peers. At last year’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, McIlroy led Koepka by a stroke entering the final round, but in that final pairing, Koepka shot 65 to easily cruise to the title, while McIlroy faltered to a share of fourth place.
Knowing this, Rory’s words to Brooks on the first tee could prove vital, a sign of whether he finally has that killer instinct needed to win the Masters.
You squeeze in as close as possible to two of the world’s best players and listen to McIlroy as he shakes Koepka’s hand.