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McIlroy Unsure about Country He'll Represent at Rio Olympics
Already the questions are coming at Rory McIlroy about which country he'll represent at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the first year golf returns to the quadrennial games since they were played in St. Louis in 1904.
The 23-year-old Northern Irishman is certainly a hot property, having won two straight FedEx Cup Playoffs events - the Deutsche Bank Championship and the BMW Championship - to go along with his win in the PGA Championship in August for his second major title and March's Honda Classic. McIlroy is the only PGA Tour player with four victories on the season.
The debate about which country he'll represent - England (of which Northern Ireland is a part) or Ireland - arose during a Monday interview with The Daily Mail. In 2009, he said he would "probably play for Great Britain," a sentiment repeated in the Daily Mail interview.
But the young star knows the decision - even though it's four years away - will be difficult. "What makes it such an awful position to be in is I have grown up my whole life playing for Ireland under the Golfing Union of Ireland umbrella," he told the British newspaper. "But the fact is I've always felt more British and Irish."
McIlroy quickly clarified that any decision is far from certain. "I wish to clarify that I have absolutely not made a decision regarding my participation in the next Olympics," McIlroy said. "On a personal level, playing in the Olympics would be a huge honor. However, the games in Rio are still four years away and I certainly won't be making any decisions with regards to participating any time soon."
McIlroy said in a letter he posted on Twitter Monday he's disappointed that there's talk about his participation in an event - albeit an important one - so far away, especially considering his recent dominance in the world of professional golf. "I was hoping that my success on the golf course would be the more popular topic of golfing conversation today," McIlroy wrote.
He added: "I am in an extremely sensitive and difficult position . . . I am a proud product of Irish golf and the Golfing Union of Ireland and am hugely honored to have come from very rich Irish sporting roots, winning Irish boys, youths and amateur titles and playing for Ireland at all levels.
"I am also a proud Ulsterman who grew up in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. That is my background and always will be. I receive huge support from both Irish and British sports fans alike and it is greatly appreciated.
"Likewise, I feel like I have a great affinity with American sports fans. I play most of my golf in the U.S. nowadays and I am incredibly proud to have won both the U.S. Open and the U.S. PGA Championship in the last two years."
McIlroy also noted his affinity with fans worldwide who've treated him "as one of their own."
"This is the way sport should be. Since turning professional at 18, I have traveled the world playing the game that I love and consider myself a global player. As the world No. 1 right now, I wish to be a positive role model and a sportsperson that people respect, and enjoy watching."