It’s the fall political season, all right.
A day after Rory McIlroy told a U.K. newspaper that he felt “more British than Irish” – fueling speculation that he would play for the Great Britain team in the 2016 Olympics – the reigning PGA champion posted an open letter on Twitter to clarify his position, writing, “I have absolutely not made a decision regarding my participation in the next Olympics.”
McIlroy, from Holywood, Northern Ireland, has a choice of whether he wants to play for Ireland or the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) when golf makes its long-awaited return to the Olympics in 2016. As McIlroy conceded in the letter, he is in “an extremely sensitive and difficult position,” but would not make a decision “any time soon.” (The entire letter can be viewed here.)
On Sunday, the Daily Mail in London published a story based on its wide-ranging interview with McIlroy, who won the BMW Championship for his third win in his past four starts. Naturally, among the topics discussed was the 2016 Olympics and the 23-year-old’s upcoming dilemma.
Said McIlroy, according to the report, “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. But the fact is, I’ve always felt more British than Irish.
“Maybe it was the way I was brought up, I don’t know, but I have always felt more of a connection with the U.K. than with Ireland. And so I have to weigh that up against the fact that I’ve always played for Ireland and so it is tough. Whatever I do, I know my decision is going to upset some people but I just hope the vast majority will understand.”
The newspaper reported that it was the first time McIlroy “unequivocally declared an affinity for the U.K. over Ireland.”
Under the current Olympic format (which is subject to change), the competition will feature 60 men and 60 women in a separate 72-hole, stroke-play tournament. The top 15 players in the Official World Ranking automatically qualify, but each country is allowed no more than four players if they are among the top 15. After the top 15, countries can be represented by no more than two of their highest-ranked players if not already qualified.
So, if McIlroy eventually decides to tee it up for Great Britain, not Ireland, at the Olympics, that could mean one fewer spot on the roster for Englishmen such as Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter.
Note: Watch Rory McIlroy on 'Late Night with Jimmy Fallon' tonight at 12:35 a.m. ET on NBC.