McIlroy to reconsider Olympic position


Golf:Rory McIlroy admitted today that the reaction to comments he made about choosing who to compete for in the 2016 Olympics is making him think again. Golf’s world number one had said he was leaning towards representing Team GB rather than Ireland because “the fact is I have always felt more British than Irish”.

It brought criticism from some people, mainly because he had represented Ireland on numerous occasions before turning professional in 2007. He has since played for Ireland alongside Graeme McDowell in golf's World Cup.

The 23-year-old will not have to make a decision until just before the Rio Games, but he said in Atlanta today: “After everything that happened last week it definitely makes me reconsider my position and reconsider a lot of things. I think it just really hit home with me how important it is for a lot of people and how important my success has been to them.

“Obviously, I’ve had a lot of support from all sides — from people that call themselves Irish, from Northern Irish, to the whole of the UK, to people over here in the States. It just hit home with me at how my success is welcomed by everyone.

It would be terrible for me to nearly segregate myself from one of those group that supports me so much.

“It’s four years away — I still have a bit of time to decide. But, I’m very, very appreciative and very grateful of the support that I get from everyone. It’s great that I get so much support. There are not many people in my position that have to go through what I might have to go through in four years’ time, but it is what it is.

“I’m a golfer first and foremost and I just want to play well on the golf course. Hopefully people enjoy that and the entertainment that that brings.”

McIlroy has also dismissed the idea that he fills Tiger Woods with fear, even though Woods, tongue firmly in cheek, has started calling him “The Intimidator”. On the eve of their latest clash, one with a $10 million jackpot at the end of it, McIlroy simply laughed today when asked about comments by Greg Norman.

Australia’s former world number one sparked a debate heading into the Tour Championship in Atlanta by offering the opinion that Woods now realises he is not the best player in golf any more. “What I’m seeing is that Tiger’s really intimidated by Rory,” Norman said in an interview. “I think he knows his time is up.”

Asked for his reaction, current number one McIlroy, winner of three of his last four events, said: “No, how can I intimidate Tiger Woods? I mean, the guy’s got 70-whatever PGA Tour wins, 14 Majors, he’s been the biggest thing ever in our sport.

“How could some little 23-year-old from Northern Ireland with a few wins come up and intimidate him? It’s just not possible. I don’t know where he (Norman) got that from, but it’s not true.”

McIlroy does not think he has ever been intimidated by Woods either, though. “I don’t think intimidated is the right word, more just in awe of his achievements, but never intimidated.”

The Tour Championship is the last leg of the FedEx Cup play-offs and McIlroy and Woods are paired together again because they are first and second in the standings. It is winner-take-all between them despite McIlroy storming to victory in the last two tournaments.

In fact, the top five on the table - Nick Watney is third, Phil Mickelson fourth and Brandt Snedeker fifth all know that if they win on Sunday they not only take the tournament first prize of $1.44 million , but also the FedEx bonus of $10 million.

And such is the system that all 30 players in the field, including McIlroy’s Ryder Cup team-mates Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia, all have a chance of scooping the bonus payment. For many fans, of course, this week is just a warm-up act before Europe defend the Ryder Cup at Medinah in Chicago.

A singles clash between McIlroy and Woods there would be the hottest ticket in town and both are keen to see it happen. “That would be fun,” said Woods, who on Norman’s comments stated: “It’s not like somebody is going to take your block off. This is a different kind of sport, we play our own game and see where it falls at the end of the day.

“In tennis you can do that (intimidate) because you are playing against somebody. Here nobody is affecting your shots.”

On a possible Ryder Cup duel, McIlroy stated: “It’s about the team, it’s not about one guy playing another guy. Of course there are a lot of people that would like to see it and it would be very exciting to be a part of. But I just want to win as many points as possible for Europe and that’s all I can really do.

“I’m not going to sit here and lie and say I wouldn’t enjoy it because I would. But I think that’s up to the captain to decide where I play and where he wants to put me and whatever decision he makes is good with me.”

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