G-Mac delight as ‘complex’ Rio issue put to bed

Rory McIlroy’s decision to represent Ireland in the 2016 Olympic Games delighted his fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell at Fota Island yesterday with the talented pair now set to wear the green jersey in Rio.

G-Mac delight as ‘complex’ Rio issue put to bed

McDowell was also enthusiastic at the prospect of playing the Fota course in glorious weather conditions over the next four days, proclaiming it “like the proverbial walk in the park after Pinehurst last week” when G-Mac faded away after a bright start to the US Open.

“I think it is great that Rory has put this to bed at last”, he said. “It was a contentious, complicated, complex issue. I suppose it could have been settled with a straight answer. But it’s a good boost for everyone here this week and to have Rory McIlroy representing Ireland in the Olympic Games is very special.

“I’m glad that he has committed and that’s cool and I’m hoping to be there alongside him. There’s no doubt he’ll be there, I’ve just got to keep my game ticking over and hopefully I’ll be there. So, like I say, it’s important that he has put this to bed and we can move on and start thinking what it’s going to be like at the Olympics representing our country.

“I am committed to Ireland. I represented Ireland in the World Cup down in Australia last year and under the Olympic regulations, I was then committed to playing for Ireland. I played alongside Rory in World Cups and Ryder Cups but I have no concept what the Olympic Games will be like. It’s the biggest sporting event on the planet and it will be interesting to see how golf fits into the programme.

“We have the four major championships and the Olympic gold medal should be at least on par with those so it’s important that we get the format right, that guys embrace it so that it has the best field in the world. I really want to be there from an experience point of view and stand on the podium and receive a medal for my country. That would be pretty amazing stuff.”

Whereas MacDowell never seemed to have any great dilemma as to whether he represented Ireland or Britain, McIlroy created a fair degree of controversy before announcing his call yesterday.

“We spoke about it many times,” said G-Mac. “We’re in a very unique situation in the north of Ireland. I’m not sure there’s another country in the world like that. But in Northern Ireland, we have sports which are split and somewhere along the line those splits happened, obviously soccer is two teams and rugby is one team.

“To me, golf has always been an All-Ireland sport. I grew up wanting to wear the green blazer with the shamrock and have a green golf bag with the Ireland logo on it. That’s what I wanted when I was a kid so it makes sense that the best players in Ireland whether it’s north or south of the border should want to represent Ireland in the Olympic Games.

“But it could be a very difficult decision. If you wanted to get religious or political about it, declaring for one or the other, you’re going to upset someone theoretically. So I’m glad he has put it to bed because it’s not a question I want to keep answering over and over because you’re setting yourself up for failure with the wrong answers.

“I was glad to have the opportunity that playing the World Cup last year put it to bed for me. I was committed to playing for Ireland and it’s great Rory has committed and it’s a big boost for Irish golf on this week of a sunny Irish Open and the news of the Open Championship going to Portrush.

“I never had any negative reaction and I don’t expect any. From a golfing point of view, we receive equal support from north and south of the border. Our sport doesn’t draw that contentious element that other sports do and I don’t see any problem.”

McDowell’s year has been gradually coming around after a slow start and even though he has a relatively poor record in the Irish Open, he is confident that this week can rectify that situation.

“It’s always great to be at the Irish Open and at such a beautiful place”, said McDowell whose wife Kirsten is expecting the couple’s first child. “I wouldn’t need my house in Florida if the sun shone like this all the time in Ireland. The course is in good shape and this is where I made my Irish Open debut back in 2002. So good memories and it’s really set for a great week and a great show case for Irish golf.”

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