Rory McIlroy confirmed on Wednesday he will represent Ireland should he qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil where golf will return to the Games.
The former world No 1 had been torn between either representing Britain, given he was born in Northern Ireland, or Ireland, given he played all his amateur golf under the banner of the Dublin-based Golfing Union of Ireland.
However, 25-year-old McIlroy opted to make public his decision ahead the International Golf Federation meeting on July 14 at the British Open that is set to announce the eligibility criteria for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I don’t know whether it’s been because the World Cup has been in Brazil and I’ve been thinking a couple of years down the line,” said McIlroy, one of the most marketable players in the sport.
“I have also thought about all the times that I played as an amateur for Ireland and as a boy and everything so for me it’s the right decision to play for Ireland, so I’m going to play for Ireland in 2016.”
“I feel like it’s the right decision for me. There’s no point in delaying it and letting it linger any longer.
“And as I said, watching the World Cup in Brazil, thinking about Brazil in a couple of years’ time, it just sort of got me thinking, maybe I should just go ahead and get it out of the way, and really look forward now to the Olympics in a couple years’ time.
“If you look at the (Irish) rugby players, you look at cricketers or hockey players ... they view Ireland as one, the same as we do in golf.
“So I don’t think there’s any point to change that or any point to go against that just because it’s a different event or it’s the Olympics.
“I was always very proud to put on the Irish uniform and play as an amateur and as a boy, and I would be very proud to do it again.”
But if McIlroy, who was sporting an emerald green coloured shirt when he spoke of his plans, does qualify and he and his team-mate proceed to win an Olympic medal for Ireland he says the achievement would not rate as high as winning a major Championship.
“Winning an Olympic medal is still is not as big as a major championship but it’s up there,” said the Ulsterman, who has already won two major titles.
“The majors in our sport are the biggest and best prizes in the game. But as hopefully golf grows in the Olympics and becomes say bigger in four or five Games down the line then it might become bigger.
“It’s a tough one because you never know how it’s going to evolve, but for me, the four major championships are the biggest prizes in our game, and maybe one day the Olympics will be able to get up to that level now.
“With the first one now, it’s not quite up there, but it would still be a huge achievement to win a medal.”
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