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Rory McIlroy changes stance, wants to play Tokyo Olympics

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FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Rory McIlroy once said he resented the Olympics. That’s all changed. McIlroy reversed his stance and wants to play at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

“More likely than not I will play. I think it would be a great experience,” McIlroy said at the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black on Tuesday. “I’m excited to play for Ireland.

“I’ve thought about that for a long time, and in the end, it was the fact that when I was a little boy and I got that first call up to the national squad … I was so proud to do that.”

McIlroy, a native of Northern Ireland, skipped golf’s return to the Olympics in Rio, citing Zika virus concerns two months before the Opening Ceremony. He had the choice of playing for Ireland or Great Britain, since Northern Ireland does not field a separate Olympic team, and chose Ireland before announcing his withdrawal.

In the months that followed the Games, 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.

He doubled down on the latter in January 2017. McIlroy said in one interview that he resented the Olympics “because of the position it put me in” for having to choose between representing two flags with which he felt no connection.

Two days later, the BBC published a video interview where McIlroy said it was fantastic that golf rejoined the Olympics, but he was unlikely to go for Tokyo 2020 given his unique situation.

On Tuesday, McIlroy reminisced glowingly about representing Ireland in the past. He last did so at the World Cup of Golf in 2011.

“As a young boy it was always my dream to play for Ireland,” he said. “I was very proud to put on that shirt or that blazer.

“When you put the Olympics into the equation, and then there’s a choice to be made, you really have to start thinking, OK, well, what are your beliefs and your values and your — it makes you sort of have to delve a little bit deeper. It’s not just a superficial decision. It’s something that you have to really believe in.

“So why would it be any different just because it’s a different golf tournament or because it’s a different arena or a different environment? That was basically what it came down to.”

McIlroy is very likely to qualify for the Olympics. Nations can qualify up to two golfers once past the top 15 in the world rankings, and McIlroy (No. 4) and Shane Lowry (No. 45) are the only Irishmen in the current top 100.

McIlroy had several conversations over the last two months with Neil Manchip, Ireland’s nominated team leader for the Olympics, Manchip said.

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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.

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Rory McIlroy ‘resents’ the Olympics

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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.”

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