Rory McIlroy has made his choice: He will represent the Republic of Ireland if he qualifies for the 2016 Olympic golf tournament.
McIlroy made the well-timed announcement Wednesday in a news conference ahead of the Irish Open.
“I see this as a continuation of what I have always done,” said McIlroy, who hails from Northern Ireland.
He added, “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.”
In international golf competitions, players born both in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland can compete under the Irish flag. Ulster-born players have the choice to compete for Ireland or the United Kingdom. Fellow countryman Graeme McDowell ultimately decided to play for Ireland as well, announcing his choice last November at the World Cup of Golf.
McIlroy has largely put aside any talk of this decision before this week, but said watching the FIFA World Cup in Brazil — where golf is set to make its Olympic return in 2016 — inspired the timing of the decision. He admits there had been some fear of the reaction in his home country to the choice, but decided it was time to make his stand.
“(I was) more worried about what other people would think rather than, you know, me,” McIlroy said. “But you have got to do what is right for yourself and what you feel comfortable with.”