Contrary to reports last week that Northern Ireland may field its own team at the World Cup later this year, the PGA Tour issued a statement Friday confirming that while England, Scotland and Wales will have their own separate teams at Royal Melbourne, Ireland and Northern Ireland will compete together under the Irish flag.
The clarification is in line with all prior editions of the competition, and likely means that world No. 2 Rory McIlroy will not be among the 60-man field in November in an effort to keep open his options for the 2016 Olympics.
As a native of Northern Ireland, McIlroy has the option to play in the Olympics for either Great Britain or Ireland. Olympic bylaws state, though, that players cannot change allegiances within three years of representing another country in an international competition – essentially meaning that the Ulsterman would be forced to play for Ireland in Rio should he participate at Royal Melbourne.
McIlroy, who represented Ireland at both the 2009 and 2011 World Cups, has attempted to remain non-commital about his 2016 allegiances when pressed. Upon hearing last week that Northern Ireland might field its own World Cup team, he admitted to potentially re-assessing his options.
'That might change things a little bit,' he said at The Players Championship.
Instead, McIlroy will now most likely remain on the sidelines this November, keeping in doubt his plans for Rio in three years' time.