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Rory McIlroy may play for Ireland at Olympics

By Karl MacGinty

Rory McIlroy is perfecting the art of diplomacy. The Holywood hero adroitly tiptoed around a potential minefield at Atlanta Athletic Club yesterday when the thorny issue arose of which country he might represent at the Olympic Games.

Two years ago, when golf learned of its admission to the Olympic family, McIlroy innocently expressed excitement at the prospect of being a teammate of Tom Daly, Britain’s gold medal-winning diver, in Rio in 2016.

Yet Mcilroy was far more circumspect yesterday when asked about his interest in playing golf at the Games and how he thought it’d work into golf’s crowded mid-summer schedule.

“It’s going to be tough, scheduling-wise, but it’s five years away,” he said.

“It’d be a huge honour to represent (at this point McIlroy paused momentarily before continuing) your country in the Olympics. It’d be a great achievement to win a gold medal.”

McIlroy has endured controversy by expressing forthright opinions on contentious issues to the media and on Twitter. Yet in that split-second pause, he was admirably quick on his feet.

Later he’d interrupt an Irish reporter who attempted to ask the obvious question: “I know what you’re going to say and the answer is I still don’t know (who I’ll represent at the Olympics).”

This left one British colleague scratching his head. “Two years ago you were sure you wanted to play for GB&NI at the Olympics, so what's changed that you're not sure?” he enquired.

“Basically, if I'm going to be honest, like I usually am, whatever I say it's going to upset someone,” McIlroy retorted. “So I may as well say 'I don't know' and wait until four or five years' time when I have to make a decision.” Solomon would have been proud.

McIlroy’s been living in a veritable fish bowl since winning the US Open, with particular fascination in media circles for his relationship with blonde tennis superstar Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark.

When the Ulsterman dallied in the clubhouse yesterday afternoon to watch the telecast from Toronto of Wozniacki play in her Rogers Cup second round match against Italy’s Roberta Vinci, word spread like wildfire.

He then kept in touch with the match on his I-Phone as he played the front nine of The Highlands course with Graeme McDowell, who took great delight in loudly teasing his fellow Ulsterman as they walked down the first fairway.

World No 1 Wozniacki lost the match and now is expected to travel to Atlanta to watch McIlroy play for a second Major title in eight weeks at the US PGA.

McIlroy set the sporting world ablaze with his record-shattering performance at June’s US Open in Congressional but he still defers to Tiger Woods as “the biggest attraction in the game of golf”.

Dismissing suggestions that the end of the Tiger era had been heralded by the emergence of first-time winners at the last six Major Championships, McIlroy went on: “I don’t think there’s quite a new era yet until other guys start to win Majors regularly like Tiger did.

“He’s not winning as much as he did back then but that’s not to say he won’t do it again. Tiger’s got another good 10 years in him if he wants it.”

His game might be creaking after recent injuries but Woods was too agile yesterday to be pinned down by reporters seeking his reaction to the outburst by his former caddie Steve Williams last Sunday.

Insisting he’d been satisfied his working relationship with Williams had come to a satisfactory conclusion, Tiger declined to say if there’d been any further communication with his ex-bagman. “I think that’s between Stevie and myself.”

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