Golfer Rory McIlroy and his Northern Ireland countryman Graeme McDowell have been between a rock and a 400-year old conflict ever since a reporter asked which country the world No. 1 was planning to represent – Great Britain or Ireland – when golf returns to the Olympics in 2016.
It’s a choice the IOC affords the two golfers given their heritage, but it’s not one they necessarily relish.
“We’re kind of in a unique scenario in Northern Ireland,” McDowell told reporters in Shanghai of the opportunity to play under either flag. “We have one foot on each team. I think it’s going to be a lot easier if someone makes the decision for us.”
McIlroy earlier admitted that he’s “always felt more British than Irish” before backlash forced him to retreat from his comments and post on Twitter that he hasn’t decided which team he’ll play for seeing as how the Olympics are still four years away.
Irish Olympic committee president Pat Hickey then said the 23-year-old medal favorite would be in “the pole position” for the honor of flag bearer if he committed to competing for Ireland, but so far McIlroy has kept his mouth shut and his eyes on the upcoming three years of golf ahead.
McDowell, who won the 2010 U.S. Open, said the choice is particularly tough for him since he comes from a mixed-religion family: his Catholic mother would probably prefer he play for Ireland while his Protestant father would likely hope he dons the Union Jack.
“But then I always kind of sit on the fence because that’s exactly the only place I can sit,” McDowell concluded. “Let’s say that I’d play for whatever team we have come 2016.”