McIlroy MUST tee up for Ireland in Rio! IOC could solve Rory's Olympic dilemma

By Derek Lawrenson


Rory McIlroy’s Olympic dilemma could be solved by the International Olympic Committee stipulating he has to play for Ireland.

In a wide-ranging interview, Peter Dawson, chief executive of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, revealed a little-known Olympic regulation that could free the Northern Irishman from having to choose between playing for Britain or Ireland at Rio in 2016, when golf rejoins the party.

‘It’s quite ambiguous but there is a rule that says where a player has represented a nation at world championship level, it carries with them,’ he said. McIlroy played for Ireland at the World Cup, a world golf championship event. ‘We would very much like to take this burden of choice away from him if we can, because it is not fair on him,’ added Dawson.

Problem solved? Rory McIlroy could be set to play for Ireland at the 2016 Olympics

Problem solved? Rory McIlroy could be set to play for Ireland at the 2016 Olympics

Dilemma: McIlroy has been debating whether to represent Great Britain or Ireland

Dilemma: McIlroy has been debating whether to represent Great Britain or Ireland

In an interview with Sportsmail last September, McIlroy caused a storm of controversy in Ireland by saying he felt ‘more British than Irish’. It prompted a rethink, with his most recent word on the matter raising the possibility of not playing at all. Now there might be a solution.

Dawson’s comments came during a 90-minute discussion with the nation’s golf writers on the emotive subjects of the day: anchored putting, changes to the Old Course and, of course, the vexed subject of men-only golf clubs.

A high-strength pair of standing binoculars enhances an already stunning vista from his office in the stately R&A clubhouse. But you might need the Jodrell Bank telescope to spot the possibility of women members on the far distant horizon.

Emerald Isle: McIlroy and Graeme McDowell represented Ireland at the World Cup in 2011

Emerald Isle: McIlroy and Graeme McDowell represented Ireland at the World Cup in 2011

Torn: McIlroy thought about pulling out because he couldn't choose between GB and Ireland

Torn: McIlroy thought about pulling out because he couldn't choose between GB and Ireland

The Old Course: R&A chief executive Peter Dawson

The Old Course: R&A; chief executive Peter Dawson

There is, though, a glimmer of hope. Dawson conceded the ‘temperature had changed’ in the light of developments at Augusta National where, at the Masters earlier this month, two women members mingled proudly in their green jackets. He talked about a ‘direction of travel’ the game is currently on.

The trouble is, at the R&A it moves with all the speed of one of those American freight trains.

On the one hand Dawson agreed that women members at Augusta was positive news for the game. So wouldn’t it be positive if it happened at the R&A, the public face of the game in this country?

Rather depressingly, he felt the need for wriggle room. ‘I suppose that is the logical extension but I would add the caveat that, while having a small amount of women members would send out some positive messaging, it wouldn’t change anything in British golf,’ he said.

‘Here the Old Course is closed on Sundays and people walk their dogs on the links or play football. At Augusta they have 20-foot high fences and 24-hour security. So you think to yourself: “Who actually provides the greater access?”’ 

Dawson believes the issue of men-only clubs has been badly distorted by politicians and the media. ‘On the day Augusta announced its two women members, I remember Gordon Brown opportunistically standing up and saying: “If they can do it in South Carolina why can’t they do it in Scotland?”

‘People in the game just thought to themselves: “If he can’t even be bothered to research the American state where Augusta is situated, why should anyone listen?” Comments like that are not helpful. Reasoned debate will speed up the journey.

‘I don’t think the general public realises that, of the 3,000 clubs in this country, only one per cent are single-sex clubs and there are more women-only clubs than men-only clubs. There are more women playing golf in St Andrews than in any other part of the country.

Artist's impression: Golf will be played at the Rio 2016 Olympics

Artist's impression: Golf will be played at the Rio 2016 Olympics

Long-term absence: Golf has been off the Olympic programme for 112 years

He added: ‘So I think the idea we’re sending out a dreadful message by being a men-only club and taking The Open to men-only clubs is considerably overblown.’

On the equally emotive subject of putter anchoring, he couldn’t give a date on when a final decision will be made on the proposed ban. But he made clear his displeasure at the manner in which the PGA Tour and the PGA of America registered their opposition. 

‘We instigated a 90-day comment period that they turned into a campaign, and that was disappointing,’ he said. ‘It put rule-making on the negotiating table, because they took a stance they will either have to back off from or maintain, and the negotiating table is not a good environment for rule making. Feelings are clearly running very high, so we will have to wait and see what happens.’ 

One way or another, Dawson has a busier agenda now than at any time during his 14-year tenure. There must be days when that sublime view from his office represents a blissful respite.



The comments below have not been moderated.

Muath, Irish people do not take offence when Northern Irish people identify themselves as British. They can if they want to - no one tries to make them do otherwise. This is all media fabrication re McIlroy. Nobody is trying to coerce him to do anything. If he is confused about his identity and who to represent that is his problem.

Click to rate     Rating   (0)

Harry, Ireland isn't 'desperate' for medals and we're definitely not desperate to have McIlroy on the team. We are a small country and we've done ok, though there's room for improvement in some areas. Britain is a large country and has only started to win significant numbers of medals over the last couple of Olympics, so don't get too big for your boots.

Click to rate     Rating   2

Im Northern Irish and proud to be British however because of the way the golf associations are set up Rory has represented Ireland in Golf. Rory is between a rock and a hard place on this damned if he does and damned if he doesnt. Give the lad a break and whatever the decision support a sportsman who just wants to play golf. I would love him to get a gold for the UK but would understand and still support him if it was an irish gold. My answer is simple Rory plays under Ireland GMac play for the UK or vice versa..lets face it the other brits dont show up for the majors

Click to rate     Rating   2

Er, McIlroy is Catholic, nominally anyway. I think this is why some people are puzzled at his self-identification as 'more Britsh than Irish'. If he wre Protestant there would be no surprise at all. Having sad that, and as an Irish person, I don't want him representing Ireland in Rio or anywhere. He isn't worthy of it.

Click to rate     Rating   3

What is all the fuss about? Northern Ireland is part of the UK. If he wants to represent his country in the Olympics why should anyone choose to take offence?

Click to rate     Rating   3

whatever he chooses its his choice. lets not forget how many non Irish players played for the republic under jack charlton, and eoin morgan playing cricket for england it's a game a sport a pastime.

Click to rate     Rating   7

What this affair exposes is that there is still a belief system in Ireland that to be truly Irish, a person has to be Catholic. That's why so many people are getting upset. If Rory putted with a right stroke, instead of playing it on the left, then none of these same people would be getting their knickers in a knot.

Click to rate     Rating   3

To those of you saying Northern Ireland is not part of Great Britain are correct, but Great Britain is the largest of the British Isles, not all of England, Scotland and Wales. All the islands around the Great Britain, including Anglesey, Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, and all the Scottish islands are not 'Great Britain', but are British, the same as Northern Ireland.

Click to rate     Rating   9

You can't spell Northern Ireland without Ireland. Rory played and got sponsored by Ireland not the UK. But don't let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Click to rate     Rating   6

He should be free to choose. It may be either or, but I'm sure, in his heart, it'll be for both countries and as such, why not cheer him on regardless of the country.

Click to rate     Rating   13

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.