LONDON: “Conflicted” Northern Irish golf star Rory McIlroy is highly unlikely to compete at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo because he would have to choose between representing Ireland or Team GB.
The 27-year-old world number two didn’t go to Rio and was heavily criticized in some quarters for dismissively saying he would watch other sports at the Games but not golf, even as it made its return to the Olympics after a more than 100-year absence.
McIlroy told the BBC on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) that having to make a choice between Ireland and Britain was too tough given the sensitive feelings that still exist in Northern Ireland about representing either country.
“I’m a very conflicted person and not a lot of people understand that,” said McIlroy, a four-time major winner.
“Maybe it’s just the way I feel. Most people think it’s wrong, but I can’t really help it.
“More likely than not I won’t be going to the Games. Not because of my personal feelings towards the Games, as they’re great and golf in the Games is fantastic.
“It’s just something I don’t want to get into. It’s a personal choice and I hope people respect that decision.”
McIlroy, who has represented Ireland at the World Cup tournament — although there he doesn’t have a choice as there is no all-British team — said it was not an easy decision but it all went back to where he came from.
“It’s not to say where I’m from is a bad place,” he said. “Northern Ireland is one of the greatest places on Earth, the people are great and it will always be home for me.
“It’s a personal decision and it hasn’t been taken lightly. I’ve fought with myself over it for so many years.”
McIlroy initially said he did not want to go to Rio last summer because of the Zika virus, but later appeared to row back on that reason and was on the receiving end of sustained questioning in the lead-up to the Games about his motives.
He later admitted that he did watch the Olympic golf on television.
“I guess the comments I made at the Open (about not bothering to even watch) was a case of one question too many,” he said. “Perhaps I made them off the cuff, but they were always there.
“I just flipped a bit at the Open. It was always in there at the back of my mind and that day it came to the front of my mind and went off.
“Golf in the Olympics is a really good thing. It went really well at the Games in 2016.”