Fear of missing out fuelled Rory McIlroy's Olympic u-turn

Rory McIlroy admits that a fear of missing out fuelled his decision to change tack on Olympic ambitions and declare himself available to represent Ireland at the Games in Tokyo in 2020.

Fear of missing out fuelled Rory McIlroy's Olympic u-turn

Rory McIlroy admits that a fear of missing out fuelled his decision to change tack on Olympic ambitions and declare himself available to represent Ireland at the Games in Tokyo in 2020.

The Holywood golfer, who has faced queries on his identity time and again down the years, has harboured wildly conflicting thoughts on the Olympics and ultimately sat out the tournament in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

“Personally, I needed to do a lot of inner thought and sort of ... 'is this important to me? Why do I want to play it? Who do I want to represent?' All that sort of stuff," he explained prior to this week's Open Championship. "At the start, whenever I was thinking of playing the Olympics, I let other people's opinions weigh on that decision. I can't please everyone.

“The only people that really care about who I play for, who I represent, don't mean anything to me. I don't care about them. So at the end of the day, I think with where golf is, with it being part of the Olympic movement, if I had to look back on my career and not played in one I probably would have regretted it.

“So that was part of the reason I wanted to go, for the experience as well. It's going to be a wonderful experience. I've never done anything like that before. And it's in Japan. I enjoy Japan. I enjoy the people. I enjoy the food. So it will be a nice week.”

McIlroy's Ulster colleague, Graeme McDowell, is another golfer who has faced inquiries as to his identity in the past. The son of a Protestant father and a Catholic mother, he spoke of the “unique, precarious kind of situation” in which Northern Ireland finds itself.

There is, he said when asked about McIlroy's Olympic quandary, no right or wrong answer but McDowell found himself handling a much more prickly conundrum when pressed on an event planned by the local Orange Order in Portrush on Saturday evening.

The Portrush Sons of Ulster have scrapped the usual annual parade due to what is said to be traffic and parking restrictions but there will be an outdoor concert, billed as a “celebration of marching bands”, in the town centre in three days' time.

McDowell grew up in the town and played his golf out of the local Rathmore club. He has handled questions of identity politics impeccably in the past and, in fairness to him, he swerved around the topic as delicately as he could again here.

“Yeah, I certainly don't really want to start getting into politics and religion and that kind of stuff. I'm not intelligent and educated enough in the real intricacies of why and how we still do this stuff.

“People like to celebrate. As long as it's all respectfully done, we'll listen to people. It's a free country, right? I don't really want to get into that stuff. It's a very difficult conversation and Northern Ireland is a very unique place. So, listen, I hope everyone has fun and has a good time.”

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