Rory McIlroy, the world’s top golfer, may be missing when the sport returns to the Olympics for the first time in 112 years at Rio 2016 because he wants to avoid a row over which country he represents.
The 23-year-old from Holywood in Country Down would be eligible for selection by either Britain or Ireland at the 2016 Games in Rio. But, he has found himself unwittingly at the center of controversy after he admitted last year that his preference would be to represent Britain, which led to criticism in Ireland, where he played much of his early golf.
“I just think being from where we’re from, we’re placed in a very difficult position,” McIlroy said on a BBC documentary. “I feel Northern Irish, and obviously being from Northern Ireland, you have a connection to Ireland and a connection to the UK. If I could and there was a Northern Irish team I’d play for Northern Ireland. Play for one side or the other – or not play at all because I may upset too many people. Those are my three options I’m considering very carefully.”
McIlroy, whose career earnings are approaching $20 million (£12 million/€15 million), won his second major title last year when he claimed victory in the PGA Championship.
McIlroy’s absence from Rio would be a major blow to the creditability of the tournament when golf is due to appear in the Olympics for the first time since St. Louis in 1904.
But, he is determined that he does not want to alienate any of his fans.
“People tune in to watch me play on TV and feel like they are connected to me in some way,” he said. “I don’t want to do repay them for their support with something they don’t want me to do.”
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org. Inside the Games is a blog of the London Organizing Committee that helped put on the recent Summer Olympics. This article is reprinted here with permission of the authors of the blog.