Rory McIlroy has confirmed he will represent Ireland at next year's Olympics in Tokyo, claiming the experience "is going to be cool."
The 30-year-old Northern Irishman was eligible to play in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro but, along with a number of the world’s leading players, decided not to play due to fears about the Zika virus.
McIlroy originally made a declaration back in 2014 that he would play for Ireland and, although also having the choice to represent Britain, has reaffirmed that he will represent Ireland just as he sees golf as an all-island sport, similar to rugby and hockey.
“I think as a young boy it was always my dream to play for Ireland. I wanted to play for Ireland. I was very proud to put on that shirt or that blazer. It’s the same as like the rugby players, right? There’s players that play for Ulster, but they want to play for Ireland. It’s seen as a whole island sport, just like hockey is, just like most of the sports are.
“So then obviously when you put the Olympics into the equation and then there’s a choice to be made, you really have to start thinking, okay, well, what are your beliefs and your values? It makes you sort of have to delve a little bit deeper. It’s not just a superficial decision. It’s something that you have to really believe in.
“I’ve thought about that for a long time, and in the end, it was the fact that when I was a little boy and I got that first call up to the national squad to go on to Citywest and be a part of the (Golfing Union of Ireland) youth system or the boys or whatever, you know, and making that team and playing in home internationals, I was so proud to do that.
“So why would it be any different just because it’s a different golf tournament or because it’s a different arena or a different environment? That was basically what it came down to. I mean, I had an unbelievable amateur career, and I don’t mean that in terms of results, but I mean that in the experiences I had and the trips that I had and the friendships that I made and the friendships that I still have to this day. That was all because of playing for Ireland and getting close to some of those guys.”
McIlroy will - like the other top golfers - face into a global odyssey by including the Olympics into his plans for next year. The Olympic tournament comes immediately after a run that takes in the British Open and the WGC in Memphis and just ahead of the FedEx Cup playoffs.