Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 25 January 2015

Let IOC decide on Olympic allegiances, says Graeme McDowell

SHANGHAI, CHINA - OCTOBER 24: Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland looks on in a press conference during the Pro Am event prior to the start of the BMW Masters at Lake Malaren Golf Club on October 24, 2012 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Mark Wieland/Getty Images)

Graeme McDowell believes the International Olympic Committee should step in to resolve the debate over whether he and the world No 1 Rory McIlroy should represent Britain or Ireland at the 2016 Olympics.

McIlroy, in particular, has found himself drawn into the controversy as to which nation he should compete for when golf returns to the Olympic programme at Rio de Janeiro for the first time since 1924.

There have been suggestions the Olympic Council of Ireland would offer McIlroy the chance to carry the Ireland flag into the opening ceremony in four years' time if he competes for the republic. However, the OCI president, Pat Hickey, this week said he had been misquoted with this offer to McIlroy.

Speaking at this week's BMW Masters in Shanghai, McDowell said the ongoing speculation would be best decided by the IOC. "Obviously, Rory's come under a lot of scrutiny in the last couple of months for kind of saying he might play for Great Britain," McDowell said. "We're kind of in a unique scenario in Northern Ireland in that we have one foot on each team. I think it's going to be a lot easier if someone makes the decision for us. The Olympic Committee should step in and say, 'You guys are either playing for Ireland or you're playing for Great Britain'."

On the opening day of the BMW Masters yesterday, Welshman Jamie Donaldson set a course record of 10-under-par 62. Donaldson produced two bogey-free nines of 31 at Lake Malaren, putting just 24 times to break the record of 63 set by Noh Seung-yul of South Korea last year.

The Welshman earned a four-stroke lead over a field including four of the world's top five players. The best of these was McIlroy, the defending champion, who posted a 67 and blamed a headache in the latter stages of his round on the air pollution over China's financial capital. "We're not breathing in the cleanest air," McIlroy said after his round.

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