Rory McIlroy has announced he will represent Ireland at the Rio Olympics in 2016 when golf makes its return to the Games for the first time since 1904.
The 25-year-old would be eligible for selection by either Great Britain or Ireland and had considered not playing at all to avoid upsetting people, but said ahead of this week’s Irish Open at Fota Island that he had made his decision.
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot,” McIlroy told a pre-tournament press conference. “I don’t know whether it’s been because the World Cup has been in Brazil and I’ve been thinking a couple of years down the line.
“Thinking about all the times that I played as an amateur for Ireland and as a boy and everything, I think for me it’s the right decision to play for Ireland in 2016.”
McIlroy had previously spoken of being in an “extremely sensitive and difficult position” over the decision, releasing an open letter on his Twitter account in September 2012 in response to quotes attributed to him which said he felt “more British than Irish”.
Asked if he had been “torn” on the issue, the former world number one added on Wednesday: “More worried about what other people would think, rather than me. But you’ve got to do what’s right for yourself and what you feel most comfortable with, and ultimately that was the decision that I made.
“I was always very proud to put on the Irish uniform and play as an amateur and as a boy, and I would be very proud to do it again. Just because now that I’m playing golf for money and I’m a professional, I’m supposed to have this choice or this decision to make, where if you look at the rugby players, you look at cricketers or hockey players, they view Ireland as one, the same as we do in golf.
“I don’t think there’s any point to change that or go against that just because it’s a different event or it’s the Olympics.
“I’ve had a lot of time on my own the last few weeks and just been thinking about it a lot. It’s something that’s been quite important to me and something that I needed to make some sort of decision or some sort of stand on it.
“Just weighing up everything, and thinking back about the times that I played for Ireland and won the European Team championship with Ireland, won a lot of great amateur titles representing Ireland, I just thought why change that? Basically it’s just a continuation of what I’ve always done.”