Friday 15 November 2019

Rory McIlroy: 'All I've done all the way through my life is play for Ireland, and why would that change?'

Rory McIlroy. Photo: Getty Images
Rory McIlroy. Photo: Getty Images
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy. Photo: PA

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy admits declaring for Ireland in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics became an easy decision once he realised he had to forget about upsetting others and do what was right for him.

The Co Down man (30) announced his intention to pull on the green jersey again during the PGA Championship at Bethpage State Park last May.

But as he prepared to tee it up in the PGA Tour's inaugural ZOZO Championship in Japan this week, he told Golf Channel how the decision became an easy one.

"It was difficult up until the point when it wasn't, if that makes sense?" he said. "I think I made it more difficult for myself than I needed to.

"My feelings towards it were 'What will other people think?' and once I got that out of my head, and I really tried to do what was right for me, it was easy. It was me wrestling with all those things. Once I left all the trying to not upset anyone, once I left that aside then it was a pretty easy decision.

"Even though the Olympics has given me that choice, there really wasn't a choice because all I've done all the way through my life is play for Ireland, and why would that change?"

McIlroy was all set to play under Paul McGinley in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 but withdrew from the team citing fears over the Zika virus.

"I've had to deal with things in regard to the Olympics that others haven't had to and that brings questions and difficulties," McIlroy said, admitting that ending his career without experiencing an Olympic Games would be a source of regret. "I thought I can't let that stuff ruin my experience of going to the Olympics and playing."

He's joined in Japan by Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry, who has signed a new contract with Srixon and Cleveland Golf believed to be worth at least $10m over the next five years.

There will be no showdown for McIlroy with No 1 Brooks Koepka who is at home nursing a knee injury that leaves him doubtful from next week's WGC HSBC Champions in China.

On the European Tour, Paul Dunne, Gavin Moynihan and Michael Hoey have one last chance to avoid Q-School in this week's Portugal Masters at a toughened Dom Pedro Victoria course where 2016 champion Pádraig Harrington will also play.

The top 117 in the Race to Dubai on Sunday will keep their cards. Dunne is ranked 118th, just 0.7 points behind England's Jack Singh Brar.

A top-40 finish would likely make Dunne's card safe though he'd need to finish as high as second to qualify for the Turkish Airlines Open.

Ranked 140th, Moynihan must finish solo fourth at worst to avoid a fourth trip to Q-School while Hoey must finish second to avoid his eighth.

Should Dunne, who sits at 119th in the Race to Dubai, fail to make it, he'd still likely play more than 20 European Tour events next year without the convenience of being able to plan his schedule.

ZOZO Championship, live , 4am

Portugal Masters, live, 11.30am

Both Sky Sports

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