Rory McIlroy set to represent Ireland at 2020 Olympics in Tokyo - 'It was always my dream to play for Ireland'
Rory McIlroy has announced that he intends to represent Ireland at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.
Ahead of the US PGA Championship at Bethpage State Park, NY this weekend, McIlroy confirmed he would be competing at the Olympics.
The World No.4 skipped the event last time citing the Zika virus and conflicting loyalties to Great Britain and Ireland, refusing to compete instead.
However, this time around the 30-year-old will travel to Tokyo and represent Ireland at the Kasumigaseki Country Club.
He said: "More likely than not I will play. I think it would be a great experience... right now in my mind I'll most likely play."
Asked which nation he intended to represent, McIlroy, who played for Ireland as an amateur, replied: "The same one I said I would a few years ago."
Returning to the subject later in the press conference, McIlroy continued: "I think as a young boy it was always my dream to play for Ireland.
"I wanted to play for Ireland. I was very proud to put on that shirt or that blazer.
"It's the same as like the rugby players, right? There's players that play for Ulster, but they want to play for Ireland. It's seen as a whole island sport, just like hockey is, just like most of the sports are.
"So then obviously when you put the Olympics into the equation and then there's a choice to be made, you really have to start thinking, okay, well, what are your beliefs and your values and it makes you sort of have to delve a little bit deeper."
Mr McIlroy said that he had spent a lot of time making his decision.
"It's not just a superficial decision. It's something that you have to really believe in," the golfer said.
"I've thought about that for a long time, and in the end, it was the fact that when I was a little boy and I got that first call up to the national squad to go on to Citywest and be a part of the youth system or the boys or whatever, you know, and making that team and playing in home internationals, I was so proud to do that.
"So why would it be any different just because it's a different golf tournament or because it's a different arena or a different environment?"
He said that his past experiences representing Ireland sealed the decision.
"That was basically what it came down to. I mean, I had an unbelievable amateur career, and I don't mean that in terms of results, but I mean that in the experiences I had and the trips that I had and the friendships that I made and the friendships that I still have to this day," McIlroy said.
"That was all because of playing for Ireland and getting close to some of those guys.
"I'm excited to be going to the Olympics. I'm excited to play for Ireland. I'm excited that Neil Manchip, who was our national coach when I was an amateur, is going to lead the team.
"I don't know who might be going on that team, as well, whether it's Shane or Seamus or whoever, but yeah, I'm excited for it. It's going to be a great experience, and probably a little bit nostalgic because it'll bring me back to 15 years ago, whenever I was doing that with the same people, with Neil, with Shane. So it's going to be cool."
McIlroy had previously said that he resented the Olympics for forcing him to choose between representing Britain and Ireland.
"It put me in a position where I had to question who I am, where am I from," he said in 2017.
"Whether that's right or wrong, it's how I feel."
The Northern Ireland golfer acknowledged at the time that he would inevitably upset some people no matter who he decided to play for.
Justin Rose won gold for Team GB at Rio 2016, the first time golf had been played at the Olympics since 1904.
Belfast Telegraph Digital