Olympics on McIlroy radar

Among the many targets for new US Open champion Rory McIlroy in the coming years will be an Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 – and he would have a choice to make on which team he represents.

When asked the question two years ago, though, McIlroy said he would represent Great Britain and Northern Ireland rather than Ireland.

When it comes to the Games there is a long-standing agreement between the British Olympic Association and the Olympic Council of Ireland that Northern Irish athletes can elect to represent Ireland because they are legally entitled to dual citizenship.

But McIlroy said in September 2009: “It’s a bit of an awkward question still, but I have a British passport and it would be Great Britain for me.”

That comment came a month before golf was voted back into the Olympics after an absence of more than a century.

As amateurs, all golfers compete for Ireland whether they are from the north or south of the border – as they also do in rugby union.

And since turning professional in 2007 McIlroy has also represented Ireland in the World Cup because, while England, Scotland and Wales compete separately, there is no Northern Ireland team in the event.

The format agreed upon for 2016 is for a 60-strong field in both men’s and women’s competitions.

That will be made up of the world’s top 15 and then players from different nations who do not already have two representatives.

Based on the current rankings Team GB would therefore have Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, McIlroy, Graeme McDowell (assuming he does not choose Ireland), Paul Casey and Ian Poulter.

Ireland would have Padraig Harrington and probably fellow Dubliner Peter Lawrie.

McDowell has said: “It’s a strange one – golf’s an all-Ireland sport. I’d play for anyone.

“I’ve never been able to explain why golf’s an all-Ireland sport and rugby’s an all-Ireland sport, but soccer is two different teams.

“It would be an honour to represent your country and I don’t mind which one I play for.

“It’s the biggest sporting event on the planet. I’d love to be involved in it, love to win a gold medal. It’s every young man’s dream, huge for golf around the world.

“Golf needs to go to the masses. I’m not a fan of golf being an elitist sport. Fingers crossed I get a chance to do it.”

As he was about the Ryder Cup, McIlroy was at first lukewarm about golf going back into the Games.

“I was a little sceptical and apprehensive about it,” he said before the International Olympic Committee vote. “But the more I think about it the more it will be great for golf just to globalise the game and get countries like Russia and India and China recognised.

“I sort of thought it’s not fair on the other athletes who train four years for the Olympics as the height of their career, but I can see this being great for golf.

“Hopefully it will grow the game and get more people to play the game.”

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