Rory McIlroy
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Rory McIlroy: I probably won’t play at Tokyo Olympics

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Rory McIlroy said he will likely skip the Tokyo Olympics because he can’t compete under Northern Ireland’s flag, which is not surprising given his recent comments about his Olympic golf situation.

“More likely than not, I won’t be going to the Games in 2020, just because of my personal feeling towards not the Olympic Games, the Olympic Games are great, and I think golf included in the Olympic Games, it’s fantastic, but just for me it’s something that I just don’t want to get into,” McIlroy said in a BBC interview published Tuesday. “That’s a personal choice, and hopefully people respect that decision.”

The BBC interview was published two days after McIlroy’s comments about resenting the Olympics were published by the Irish Independent.

The world No. 2 golfer said he didn’t like being put in an uncomfortable position of having to choose between representing two flags with which he feels no connection, according to the newspaper.

When golf was readded to the Olympics for the Rio Games, McIlroy knew that if he was going to play, he couldn’t represent his native Northern Ireland, which does not field an Olympic team separate from Great Britain. So he had to choose between Great Britain and Ireland and in 2014 picked the latter, which he had previously represented at the World Cup of Golf in 2009 and 2011.

Then, less than two months before the Rio Olympics, McIlroy announced he would skip the Olympics due to Zika virus concerns.

In the months that followed, McIlroy hinted that other reasons went into his decision, perhaps primarily — that he didn’t consider Olympic golf that prestigious. Or because of the politics concerning which country he would represent.

The latest BBC interview suggests national representation is the biggest roadblock. Maybe the only one.

“A decision that I fought with myself for so many years,” McIlroy said in the BBC interview. “Just for me, I’m a very conflicted person, and not a lot of people understand that, maybe.”

Tokyo 2020 might be McIlroy’s last shot at the Olympics, as golf isn’t guaranteed a place in the Olympic program beyond that.

MORE: Tim Finchem eyes Olympic golf change in 2020

Rory McIlroy ‘resents’ the Olympics

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 20:  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off on the 9th hole during day four of the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates on November 20, 2016 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
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Rory McIlroy said he “resents the Olympics” for putting him in an uncomfortable position of having to choose between representing two flags with which he feels no connection, according to the Independent in Ireland.

When golf was readded to the Olympics for the Rio Games, McIlroy knew that if he was going to play, he couldn’t represent his native Northern Ireland, which does not field an Olympic team separate from Great Britain.

McIlroy, the world No. 2 with four major titles, was left to choose between representing Ireland and Great Britain.

“All of a sudden it put me in a position where I had to question who I am,” McIlroy said, according to Sunday’s report. “Who am I? Where am I from? Where do my loyalties lie? Who am I going to play for? Who do I not want to piss off the most? I started to resent it. And I do. I resent the Olympic Games because of the position it put me in — that’s my felling towards it — and whether that’s right or wrong, it’s how I feel.”

In June 2014, McIlroy announced he would represent Ireland if he played at the Rio Olympics. He had previously played for Ireland at the World Cup of Golf in 2009 and 2011.

“Thinking about all the times that I played as an amateur for Ireland and as a boy and everything, I think for me it’s the right decision to play for Ireland in 2016,” McIlroy reportedly said then.

Two years later, and less than two months before the Olympics, McIlroy announced he would skip the Olympics due to Zika virus concerns.

In the months that followed, McIlroy hinted that other reasons went into his decision, perhaps primarily — that he didn’t consider Olympic golf that prestigious. Or because of the politics concerning which country he would represent.

McIlroy delved into the latter in Sunday’s report, recalling a text conversation with Brit Justin Rose, who won the first Olympic men’s golf title in 112 years in August.

After McIlroy sent Rose a congratulatory message, Rose said all the golfers in Rio wanted to know if McIlroy felt like he missed out by skipping the Olympics.

“I said; ‘Justin, if I had been on the podium [listening] to the Irish national anthem as that flag went up, or the British national anthem as that flag went up, I would have felt uncomfortable either way,'” McIlroy said, according to the newspaper. “I don’t know the words to either anthem; I don’t feel a connection to either flag; I don’t want to be about flags; I’ve tried to stay away from that.”

McIlroy said he was proven wrong about golf’s place in the Olympics in the week after the Rio Games. But he refrained from committing to the Tokyo Olympics.

“The participation in the Olympics for me, it’s just a little more complicated I feel for me than some other people from where I’m from and the whole politics of the thing,” McIlroy said in October. “It’s a difficult subject for me.

“Four years’ time is a long ways away, so we’ll see what happens. Right now, I’ll concentrate on the 16 majors that we have between now and then and try to get a few more of those and go from there.”

MORE: Tim Finchem eyes Olympic golf change in 2020

2020 Olympic golf may include more than individual event, Tim Finchem says

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09:  Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson of the United States walk down a fairway with Gil Hanse during a practice round on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Olympic Golf Course on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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Outgoing PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said golf officials are looking to “mix in a different competition or two” for the 2020 Olympics.

In Rio, golf returned to the Games for the first time since 1904 with 72-hole, stroke-play tournaments for men and women.

In September, Finchem said he would like to see more golf medals awarded at the Olympics but did not elaborate.

Finchem provided another hint last week while attending the World Cup of Golf in Melbourne, Australia. The World Cup is a 72-hole team event featuring two players per nation.

“The feedback is very positive [on team-based formats],” Finchem said, according to the Age in Melbourne. “We’re looking at the formats for [Tokyo] 2020, and we like individual competition, but we’d also like to mix in a different competition or two and we’re looking at different possibilities.

“We might end up saying, ‘we’ll keep it the way it is’, we might recommend a couple of changes on certain days where we do a different type of competition. And it also affects scheduling, so we’re looking how that all works.”

The International Olympic Committee has yet to decide whether golf will remain in the Olympics beyond 2020.

MORE: PGA Championship could be moved for 2020 Olympics