Rory McIlroy is ready to play in the 2020 men's Olympic golf tournament in Tokyo, and the reigning FedEx Cup champion will be competing for the Republic of Ireland.
McIlroy made the announcement in Japan ahead of this week's inaugural Zozo Championship.
“I’m excited to play the Olympics and call myself an Olympian,” McIlroy told Golf Channel. “Coming to such a golf-crazy country like Japan helps. It’s a really good atmosphere and just being here this week and seeing the enthusiasm of the fans makes me look forward to coming back next year and playing the Olympics.”
McIlroy was among several high-profile players who declined to play in golf's return to the Olympic program in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, citing the potential spread of the Zika virus as a reason. Many critics believed that was an illegitimate reason for any player not to compete.
Unlike other top names who skipped playing in Rio, McIlroy also faces the politically awkward decision of choosing the one of two countries he would represent. McIlroy is, of course, from Northern Ireland, and the country competes internationally under the flag of the United Kingdom. However, in international golf competition, players from Northern Ireland can and typically do compete for the Republic of Ireland as a united team. In 2020, McIlroy is choosing to do what he's always done: be Irish.
"I see this as a continuation of what I have always done," said McIlroy in 2014, when he announced his intention to play for Ireland in the Brazil games. "I was thinking about all the times I have played for Ireland as a boy and everything. For me it is the right decision to play for Ireland."
Since that decision, McIlroy has become less concerned with criticism of his choices.
“I’ve had to deal with things in regard to the Olympics that others haven’t had to and that brings questions and difficulties,” McIlroy said. “But at the end of the day I thought I can’t let that stuff ruin my experience of going to the Olympics and playing.”