Rory McIlroy: I’ll Represent Ireland in the 2016 Olympics
When Rory McIlroy goes for Olympic gold, he’ll golf his ball under the Irish flag.
Settling a question that had been the source of widespread speculation, McIlroy confirmed today that he will represent Ireland at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“I see this as a continuation of what I’ve always done,” McIlroy said at a press conference in advance of this week’s Irish Open.
At his announcement, the assembled Irish press corps burst into applause, the Irish Independent reported.
Born in Northern Ireland, the 25-year-old McIlroy was eligible to play for Great Britain or the Republic of Ireland. Choosing between the two presented him with a weighty decision that, McIlroy said, had come to rule his thoughts in recent weeks.
“I have been thinking about it a lot. I don’t know if it because the World Cup is in Brazil and I was thinking a couple of years down the line. I was thinking about all the times I have played for Ireland as a boy and everything.”
Prior to turning professional in 2007, McIlroy was spared the awkward choice of national allegiance because in golf, as in rugby, Northern Irish amateurs play for Ireland under the Golfing Union of Ireland, without regard to borders.
The Olympics provided him with no such out. When the question first came up, two years ago, McIlroy said that he was inclined to represent Great Britain over Ireland because “the fact is I have always felt more British than Irish.”
His comments caused such a stir that McIlroy quickly rescinded them, saying that the uproar made it clear to him that he needed to give the matter more thought.
At once point, the pressure and the implications of the decision weighed so heavily on McIIroy that he said he was considering skipping the Summer Games altogether.
But at the Irish Open press conference, McIlroy sounded resolved — and relieved.
“I was more worried about what other people thought than, you know, me. But you have to do what is right for yourself and what you feel comfortable with. Ultimately, that was the decision I made.”
Better to announce his decision sooner than later, he said.
“There is no point delaying it. I was watching some of the World Cup and thinking about Brazil in a couple of years time. It really got me thinking that I should just go ahead and get it out of the way. I am really looking forward now to the Olympics in a couple of years time. I knew I had to make some sort of decision — some kind of stand,” McIlroy continued. “I weighed up but I kept thinking of all the times I played for Ireland.”