Graeme McDowell appears to have made his choice as to which country he would represent in the 2016 Olympics.
The 2010 U.S. Open champion is playing for Ireland in this week’s ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf at Royal Melbourne in Australia. Take that as an indication that McDowell will choose the Republic of Ireland as his country if he qualifies for golf’s return to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“From my point of view, when the World Cup came back on the schedule and it was coming to Royal Melbourne, I knew that I wanted to be part of this team, we have always represented Ireland when it has come to the World Cup,” McDowell said Wednesday.
“So I believe that me being here and representing Ireland will, you know, with the Olympic regulations, will mean that I am – I will have to play for Ireland when it comes to the Olympics in 2016… if good enough, if eligible, if fit enough, et cetera, et cetera.”
McDowell, as well as Rory McIlroy and any other player from Northern Ireland, has the unique decision to make of representing the United Kingdom — of which, Northern Ireland is part — or Ireland, as golf has historically combined the two countries on the Emerald Isle into one.
Both McDowell and McIlroy have been reluctant to discuss the subject, with both suggesting in different ways that they’d prefer someone — the International Olympic Committee or the International Golf Federation, created to oversee the Olympic golf tournament — make the choice for them.
Then again, it’s a matter of first qualifying for the tournament. A total of 60 men and women each qualify based on the Official World Golf Ranking, currently with the top 15 in the world at the cut off date automatically in the field, regardless of country. After the top 15, the next 45 players are picked based on country, with no more than two players able to represent a country if they don’t have more than two players in the top 15. The IGF is expected to further refine the criteria to prohibit more than four players from a single country to qualify regardless of their standing in the Official World Golf Ranking or Rolex Rankings.
The Ulster team of McDowell and McIlroy represented Ireland in the World Cup the last two times it was played in 2009 and ’11, finishing T-4 two years ago. This week, however, McDowell is teaming up with Irishman Shane Lowry in the new individual-team-hybrid format.