Rory McIlroy admits that he’s feeling particularly excited about the prospect of spending the week with Shane Lowry next year at the 2020 Olympics in Japan.
McIlroy and Lowry long duelled in the amateur ranks of golf on this island before either player dabbled in the pro game and now, injuries willing, the pair are set to represent Ireland on the most famous stage in sport.
“One of the big things I’m looking forward to most is spending the week with Shane Lowry,” McIlroy told the Golf Channel.
“Shane and I have got a wonderful relationship. He’s obviously had a great year winning the Open at Portrush. But Shane’s wife Wendy is going to come over. So will my wife Erica and it’s going to be really cool to feel that camaraderie over there.”
McIlroy nailed his colours to Team Ireland’s mast having missed the Games in Rio in 2016. The Holywood star had previously declared for Ireland in 2014 and given he is a product of the Golfing Union of Ireland, many felt that’s where his loyalties should lie.
But with sensitive politics at play behind such a declaration, it was never going to be an easy decision to reach with McIlroy admitting that a maturing attitude helped him gain the confidence to make such a call, thus lifting the weight of uncertainty that had been hanging over his head for so long.
“It’s a maturing thing,” McIlroy said of his decision to embrace the Games having, like Lowry, cited the Zika virus to skip the event in Rio in 2016.
“The Olympics put me in a bit of an awkward position in that I had to dig deep within myself to ask myself questions that I’d never asked myself before.
“Where do my loyalties lie? Where am I from? What does that mean to me? What does the other side mean to me?
“It weighed heavily on me and then I started to resent the Olympics because of what it put upon me, but I realised I can’t please everybody. If you go through life trying to make everyone happy then you’re going to be miserable yourself.
“I just had to do what was right for me and I didn’t want to let other people pivot me from something that I’d never experienced before. Japan’s going to be awesome. We obviously had the ZOZO there a few weeks ago and the golf fans in Japan are so enthusiastic, so it’s going to be exciting.”
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are set for July next year, shortly after the Open Championship. With McIlroy deciding to skip this year’s Irish Open, much to the disappointment of tournament host Paul McGinley and many of his home supporters, would an Olympic medal for Ireland prove enough to repair the damage? Only time will tell.