Rory McIlroy has claimed he “resents” the Olympic Games for forcing him to choose between competing for Great Britain or Ireland.
The Northern Irishman, a four-time Major winner, was one of numerous golfers to pull out of competing at Rio 2016 in August, citing fears over the Zika virus.
McIlroy was joined by world number one Jason Day of Australia and Americans Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth in not taking part due to Zika, the mosquito-borne disease which was linked with a condition in which babies are born with small heads and underdeveloped brains.
In an interview with Ireland’s Sunday Independent newspaper, however, McIlroy claimed that the tough decision on who he would represent was behind his choice not to take part.
Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom after being created in 1921 by act of British Parliament when Ireland was partitioned between the North and South.
Ireland is now an independent country but a significant amount of Catholics remain in Northern Ireland who want a united country.
“When it was announced [that golf was returning to the Olympics] in 2009 or whatever, all of a sudden it put me in a position where I had to question who I am,” McIlroy told the Sunday Independent.
“Who am I?
“Where am I from?
“Where do my loyalties lie?
“Who am I going to play for?
“I started to resent it.
“And I do.
“I resent the Olympic Games because of the position it put me in – that’s my feeling towards it – and whether that’s right or wrong, it’s how I feel.”
Britain’s Justin Rose became golf’s first men’s Olympic champion since 1904 by holding off the challenge of Sweden’s Henrik Stenson in an enthralling final round at Rio 2016.
He also made history by hitting Olympic golf’s first hole-in-one in the opening round.
“I sent Justin Rose a text after he won,” said McIlroy.
“I think I still have the message: ‘I’m happy for you, mate, I saw how much it means to you, congratulations.’
“He said: ‘thanks very much, all the boys here want to know do you feel like you missed out?’
“I said: ‘Justin, if I had been on the podium [listening] to the Irish national anthem as that flag went up, or the British national anthem as that flag went up, I would have felt uncomfortable either way.’
“I don’t know the words to either anthem; I don’t feel a connection to either flag; I don’t want it to be about flags; I’ve tried to stay away from that.
“Not everyone is [driven by] nationalism and patriotism and that’s never been me, because I felt like I grew up in a place where I wasn’t allowed to be.
“It was suppressed.
“I turned on the TV at home and it was the BBC; I did my GCSEs; I used pounds sterling, stuff like that.
“So I’m a Catholic but I feel very much Northern Irish.
“And I never wanted it to get political or about where I’m from, but that’s what it turned into.
“And it just got to the point where it wasn’t worth the hassle.”
Back in August, however, McIlroy admitted he was “glad to be somewhat proven wrong” about golf in the Olympics after Zika fears proved unfounded.
The World Health Organization said no cases had been reported during the Olympics, with many accusing the golfers of using the virus as an excuse not to play.
The prestige of golf at the Olympic Games is still up for debate with many viewing it as secondary to the four Majors.
As well as McIlroy, Day, Johnson and Spieth, other golfers who opted not to attend were Australia’s Adam Scott and Marc Leishmann, South Africa’s Brandon Grace, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez, Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and Fiji’s Vijay Singh.
By Max Winters
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.