'I will say to Rory that if he declares for Ireland, then he will automatically put himself in pole position to carry the Irish tricolor into the Olympic Stadium in Rio,' said Pat Hickey, president of the OCI.
A native of Northern Ireland, McIlroy is eligible to play for both Ireland and Great Britain in 2016, when golf is re-introduced to the Olympics for the first time since 1904. Having played in prior competitions for the Golfing Union of Ireland, McIlroy created a stir last month when he appeared to be leaning toward playing for Great Britain in Rio, claiming he has 'always felt more British than Irish.' In an open letter that followed, he clarified his position, stating 'I have absolutely not made a decision regarding my participation in the next Olympics.'
'What he has done on the world stage for Irish golf is absolutely astonishing,' said Hickey, who is also a board member on the International Olympic Committee. 'Personally, I would dearly love for him to represent Ireland.'
Tennis stars Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova have all carried their countries' flags recently at the Olympics, and Hickey feels the offer will resonate with McIlroy.
'It would suddenly catapault him into the realms of being one of the most instantly recognizable sporting faces on the planet,' he noted. 'Because make no mistake about it, that's what carrying the flag does for people.'