Brooks Koepka stumbled in his final-round bid to win The Masters on Sunday but then took aim at those who had doubted the ability of he and other LIV Golf players.
The American had a two-stroke lead going into the final round but finished four strokes behind Spanish winner Jon Rahm, shooting a disappointing three-over 75 to settle for tied second place after leading alone following the second and third rounds.
READ: Rahm follows Ballesteros with Masters glory
He shared second with fellow LIV golfer Phil Mickelson, while another member of the Saudi-backed Tour, 2018 Masters winner Patrick Reed, finished tied for fourth.
Koepka was asked what he felt the displays from the LIV players at Augusta had proved about the quality of that Tour which critics have suggested is well below the level of the established PGA Tour.
“We’re still the same people. So I mean, I know if I’m healthy, I know I can compete,” said the four-time Major winner.
“I don’t think any of the guys that played this event thought otherwise, either. When Phil plays good, we know he’s going to compete. P-Reed, the same thing.
“I think that’s just manufactured by the media that we can’t compete anymore, that we are washed up.”
Players from both sides of golf’s bitter divide have been keen to observe an unofficial ceasefire during the tournament, stressing their good personal relations despite the rancour and legal battles that remain.
Koepka said that while the divide is real, The Masters week had proven that personal relationships remain intact.
“I guess it is fractured from the fan’s perspective. But as far as us, I think everybody saw it this week. It’s nice to see everybody. There are no hard feelings pretty much. I think that’s the way everybody should see it,” he said.
In the build-up to the tournament, LIV chief executive Greg Norman had fantastised about the entire contingent of his players at Augusta celebrating a victory for one of them, en masse at the 18th green.
While Koepka wasn’t able to deliver that moment for his employers, he certainly showed that he is close to his best after long-running injury problems.
However, there was no escaping the sense that he had let a chance of glory slip through his hands with his six bogeys.
“Obviously it’s super disappointing. Didn’t play good enough to win. Hit some shots where I also feel like I didn’t get some good breaks … hit some good shots and just ended up in some terrible spots where it was quite difficult.
“Didn’t feel like I did too much wrong, but that’s how golf goes sometimes, It is what it is. I tried. Gave it my all, so I can go to sleep at night,” he said.
The 32-year-old said that he didn’t feel his performance level had dropped significantly from the previous rounds where he had finished atop the leaderboard.
“I think it felt the same. I feel like I was striking the ball pretty well. Poor tee shot on 1 but got lucky,” he said, noting that his round had changed just before the turn.
“Poor tee shot on 8, which is a big birdie hole, and I felt like that’s kind of where the momentum shifted right there on 8 and 9.”
Despite being close to his best again, Koepka said it was too soon for him to see the positive side of his Masters week.
“Not today. Probably not for the next few days. But eventually it will be a positive. I’d say probably give it a week, and I’ll start to see some positives out of it and carry this over to the PGA, the US Open and The Open,” he said
“But right now, it’s kind of tough to see, if I’m honest, probably for the next few hours and the next few days.”
© Agence France-Presse