Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Rory McIlroy: I’ll decide who I represent at the Olympics

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 12:  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland looks on from the second tee during the second round of the 2013 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2013 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 12: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland looks on from the second tee during the second round of the 2013 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2013 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

An angry Rory McIlroy has shot down any suggestion he must play golf for Ireland at the Olympics.

An attempt by R&A chief executive Peter Dawson to ease McIlroy's dilemma over which country to opt for in 2016 was firmly dismissed by the irritated Ulsterman during his pre-tournament preparations for the Wachovia Championship at Quail Hollow.

Dawson last week said McIlroy (right) may be bound to play for Ireland and not GB because of his record of representing this island in amateur and professional world team championships and other international events.

But, speaking for the first time about the controversial R&A intervention, the Ulster golf ace firmly resisted any effort to nudge him into the Irish camp in Rio when he said: “I think Rule 41 in the Olympic Charter states that I still have a choice and — it's not like they can take it away from me.

“If you play for a country and then either change nationality or whatever, or if you don't play for that country for three years, you still have a choice.”

He added: “I haven't played for anyone, I guess, since the end of 2011 in the World Cup (when he and fellow Northern Ireland man Graeme McDowell both represented Ireland at Mission Hills in China).

“Obviously, going into the Olympics, that'll be five years, so I'll still have a choice.”

McIlroy also responded with a firm “no” when asked if he planned to play for Ireland in this year's World Cup of Golf.

A driving force behind golf's readmission to the Olympic family, Dawson also is president of the International Golf Federation, which will liaise with the IOC in resolving this thorny eligibility issue.

Following suggestions from McIlroy that he'd three alternatives, play for Britain, play for Ireland or skip Rio altogether rather than upset people on either side, Dawson last week made what many considered to be a helpful suggestion, especially in view of McDowell's plea last year for officialdom to take the decision out of his hands.

Yet McIlroy disagreed that Dawson's remarks made the situation any easier for him, saying: “The more it's talked about, the more it gets blown up.

“I'd rather not talk about it until I have to decide what to do.”

McIlroy welcomed the US Tour's decision not to suspend tour veteran Vijay Singh for taking deer antelope spray which contained the prohibited growth agent IGF-1.

Singh can count his blessings after escaping without sanction following a clear breach of the PGA Tour's anti-doping code.

Three months of embarrassment and public ridicule was a relatively small price for Singh to pay after revealing in a magazine article last January that he used the controversial spray.

Meanwhile, golf has learnt several invaluable lessons from ‘Antlergate'. First, the Fijian's transgression has nailed the lie that golfers have nothing to gain from the abuse of steroids, growth hormone or other substances which boost endurance, strength and stamina.

Singh was gullible to fork out $9,000 last autumn for a remedial package that also contained little stickers and flashing light bulbs. Ignorant of a Tour warning about deer antler spray, he also was careless not to have its contents checked.

Yet, after several fruitless seasons struggling with injury, Singh, now 50, was desperate to find something to help him continue the punishing practice and training regime which has yielded a Tour record of 22 tournament wins since his 40th birthday.

Second, Singh's case also has exposed the fallacy of adopting a universal list of prohibited substances, many of which cannot be detected by urine analysis -- the only testing method golf employs.

PGA Tour commissioner Tom Finchem says blood testing will be considered when a viable method becomes available; the current blood test for IGF-1 and human growth hormones was recently discredited in a US court.

Third, 'Antlergate' should make all elite golfers more aware of the importance of getting expert advice on any foodstuff or supplement they ingest.

Singh clearly broke Tour rules by publicly admitting he used deer antler spray.

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