Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

McDowell set for Ireland future

Graeme McDowell looks set to play for Ireland at the 2016 Olympics.
Graeme McDowell looks set to play for Ireland at the 2016 Olympics.

Graeme McDowell believes that he will compete for Ireland at the Olympics in 2016 after representing the country at this week's World Cup of Golf.

McDowell is from Northern Ireland so has the option to represent Ireland or Great Britain at the Games in Rio.

But by-law two of rule 41 of the Olympic Charter states that if an athlete has represented a country in a tournament recognised by the relevant international federation, in this case the International Golf Federation, then three years must pass before they can represent another at an Olympic Games.

That would mean that McDowell is now tied to Ireland for the 2016 Games, although such decisions can be changed if agreed upon by the relevant international federation, national Olympic committees and the International Olympic Committee Executive Board.

The 34-year-old, along with countryman Rory McIlroy, has always been coy on the subject of Olympic allegiance but, speaking ahead of the ISPS HANDA World Cup in Australia, McDowell expressed relief that the decision now seems to have been made for him.

"I believe that me being here and representing Ireland will, with the Olympic regulations, mean that I will have to play for Ireland when it comes to the Olympics in 2016," McDowell told www.pgatour.com.

"It is a very touchy political and religious subject, one that myself and Rory have not really enjoyed answering questions about the last few years because it is very difficult to pick a side because you are going to end up upsetting someone from either side.

"We grew up wanting to wear the green jacket and have the golf bag with the Ireland logo on it.

"The Golf Union of Ireland looks after all the players in Ireland and I have always enjoyed being part of that.

"When it comes to the Olympic discussion, that raises some questions as to who we play for.

"I was always very much trying to sit on the fence, again, because I really did not want to have to make that decision s o part of me feels relieved to not have to make that decision."

Shane Lowry will play alongside McDowell in Melbourne this week but he was partnered with McIlroy in both 2009 and 2011.

The former US Open champion stated in May of this year, before the Ireland team for the World Cup had been decided, that the question of Olympic eligibility would not enter his mind when deciding whether to compete in Melbourne.

"The dilemma Rory and I face is a very unique one," he said.

"Regarding the World Cup of Golf this year for example, that if we played we'd then be compelled to play for Ireland in the Olympic Games; is that rule going to stand?

"I had an informal conversation with Rory last night about are we going to play the World Cup together, I need my partner in crime in Melbourne. I would love to do that and the Olympics will not enter my head with regards to making the decision of whether I'm going to play the World Cup.

"If it forces me into playing for Ireland at the Olympics, so be it."

McIlroy's decision not to play in Melbourne potentially leaves him still with a decision to make and the former world number one, also speaking in May, was adamant that it was still his choice to make.

"I think it's Rule 41 but I still have a choice. They can't take it away from me," McIlroy said.

"If you change country or don't play for that country for three years you still have a choice. I've not played for anyone since the World Cup in 2011, the Olympics would be five years so I still have a choice."

McIlroy has previously said he might simply not play in Rio to avoid upsetting people with his decision, and added: "The more it's talked about it's just going to get blown up. I would rather not talk about it until the time I have to decide what to do."

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