Rory McIlroy believes he may only have two chances to win an Olympic medal unless there is a change in attitude to the sport’s return to the Games.
Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Vijay Singh have all made themselves unavailable for selection for this summer’s Games in Rio, when golf is included in the programme for the first time since 1904.
Scott had previously said winning an Olympic medal was nothing he had “ever aspired to do” and questioned the 72-hole strokeplay format for what he called “an exhibition event”, while Oosthuizen cited “family and schedule issues” and Singh also expressed concern about the Zika virus.
McIlroy said in January that major championships would always be more important to him than an Olympic medal, but asked yesterday why he would be playing in Rio, the 27-year-old said: “Two reasons: Because of how it’s being approached in golf circles, it’s being played in Rio this year and Tokyo in 2020, I’m not sure if we’re going to have another opportunity to win a gold medal after that, depending on what happens.
“The second thing: Paul McGinley is the Irish team captain and he is so into it. He’s more into it than I am, quite honestly, but because he is, I would feel like I am not only letting him down, I’d let the country down as well. Paul is a very close friend of mine and if I didn’t play I’d let him down big time.
“That’s why I want to go and give it my best shot. I’m going to get all my shots next week from the doctor on site at the Players [Championship], get my shots for Zika and everything I need and go play four rounds really competitively and try to win a gold medal.”
Speaking in a press conference ahead of his defence of the Wells Fargo Championship, McIlroy added: “I don’t know how that will stack up against the other things I’ve done in my career now, but maybe I might look back in 20 years’ time and a gold medal might be one of my crowning achievements in the game. You never know.”
Meanwhile McIlroy believes he is close to eliminating the “bad habits” which have contributed to him being the only member of the world’s top five without a victory in 2016. While world number one Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, and Rickie Fowler have all tasted success, McIlroy has had to settle for four top-10 finishes in strokeplay events and losing in the semi-finals of the WGC-Dell Match Play.
However, the world number three has a great chance to end his winless run by staging a successful title defence in this week’s Wells Fargo Championship, an event which provided his first PGA Tour title in 2010 and five top-10 finishes in six appearances.
“I’m very excited to be back,” McIlroy said yesterday. “Any time you get to defend a title is exciting and Quail Hollow has been a really good place for me in my PGA Tour career.
“I’ve always been very comfortable on this course and with the great memories that I have it all adds up to a really enjoyable week, but a week where I feel like I can play really well and strongly and have a chance to contend again.”
McIlroy, who celebrated his 27th birthday yesterday, took three weeks off after finishing 10th in the Masters and, after initially leaving his clubs well alone, has since spent time working hard on his game.
The four-time major winner said yesterday: “I had a good chat with my swing coach Michael Bannon. I’d got into a couple of bad habits leading up to Augusta and it’s never really a good time to work on them — you are just trying to play golf and shoot a score.
“I’ve worked pretty hard the last week to lead into this week and looking on to the Players and the Irish Open too. I’ve got three important weeks coming up. There’s a couple of things at Augusta that I need to rectify but I feel I’ve done that for the most part.”
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