McIlroy may have to play for Ireland
R&A’s Peter Dawson suggests that world number two may not have a choice as to which country he represents in Olympics
Rory McIlroy talks to his caddie JP Fitzgerald on the 13th green during the third round of the 2013 Masters Tournament at Augusta National. Photograph: Harry How/Getty Images
Royal &Ancient (R&A) chief executive Peter Dawson would like to take the pressure off Rory McIlroy’s decision of who to represent at the 2016 Olympics.
The 23-year-old Northern Irishman would be eligible for selection by either Britain or Ireland, but may opt out instead for fear of upsetting people with his choice.
Speaking last year, the world number two 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....”
Asked if not playing was a genuine possibility, McIlroy added: “For sure it’s definitely an option. I’ve got three options; I either play for one side or the other or I don’t play.”
But Dawson believes there may be a way to make life easier for McIlroy and others. “Because of Rory’s history of playing for Ireland at amateur level and World Cup level, there may be an Olympic regulation that because you played in a previous world championship for a certain country, that has to carry with you,” Dawson admitted.
“Does the World Cup count as a world championship? Golf isn’t structured the way other sports are.”
McIlroy has twice played in the World Cup for Ireland — both times alongside fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell — and Dawson added: “I would very much like to take this burden of choice away from the player if we can possibly find a way because it’s not fair. The last thing we want is the player to worry about it.”
In September last year, McIlroy released an open letter on his Twitter account in response to quotes attributed to him which said he felt “more British than Irish”.
“I am in an extremely sensitive and difficult position and I conveyed as much in a recent newspaper interview,” he wrote at the time.
“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.”