It has emerged that Rory McIlRoy may be saved from having to decide whether to play for Ireland or Great Britain at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. Peter Dawson, Chief Executive with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club has come out to say that, “I think because Rory’s history of playing for Ireland at amateur level and, I think at World Cup level, that there may be a regulation within the Olympic rules that would require him to stay with that”. He went on to say, “It’s quite ambiguous really but there is a rule that a player who has represented one nation at a previous world championships from certain countries, that carries with you.”
This will come as a major relief to the 23 year old County Down golfer, who had yet to make a call on this sensitive issue. Dawson also added, “I would very much like to take this burden of choice away from the player if we can possibly do it because it’s not fair to him.”
Burden it may be but the problem now of course is the decision may be taken out of his hands, but he has made statements in the past that would lead to believe, that he would in fact have chosen to play for Great Britain. He has said, “Whatever decision I make, whether that’s play for Ireland, play for Britain, not play at all maybe just because I don’t want to upset too many people…”
“I’ve got three options; I either play for one side or the other or I don’t play.”
He has acknowledged the knife edge that he could be walking on, “I am in an extremely sensitive and difficult position and I conveyed as much in a recent newspaper interview.”
Irish sports fans are a passionate lot and to be represented at such a high level in a sport is always welcome. But to be represented by someone that isn’t showing full commitment, is somewhat different. McIlroys past comments on this matter may yet come back to haunt him, “I am a proud product of Irish golf and the Golfing Union of Ireland. I am also a proud Ulsterman who grew up in Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom. That is my background and always will be.”
“I receive great support from both Irish and British fans alike and it is greatly appreciated.” His efforts to appease both sides are very apparent, but he did go on to say “What makes it such an awful position to be in is I have grown up my whole life playing for Ireland under the Golfing Union of Ireland umbrella. But the fact is I have always felt more British than Irish. Maybe it is the way I was brought up, I don’t know, but I have always felt more of a connection with the UK than with Ireland.” So, there lies the problem. He may not have come straight out and picked a side but he did lean heavily towards representing Great Britain. There have been plenty of soccer players that wore the Green of Ireland that were born in England but understandably none have said that they felt more British than Irish. Because he has been brought up under the wings of the Golf Union of Ireland, Irish fans may feel that he owes them.
He has indicated that much, “And so I have to weigh that up against the fact that I have always played for Ireland and so it is tough. Whatever I do, I know my decision is going to upset some people but I hope the vast majority will understand.”
This is not the first time that McIlroys passion for a team event has come under scrutiny. His debut in the Ryder Cup was marred by his comments that winning a major or a world championship were ahead of winning the Ryder Cup. Although the Royal and Ancient may be about to ride in and save the young Northern Ireland golfer from making a decision either way, there will still be questions to answer. The ‘I have always felt more British’ comment will definitely be thrown back at him. Irish fans will want an assurance that he will be there to represent Ireland and be passionate wearing the green.