World No. 2 Rory McIlroy has removed any doubt in confirming he will represent Ireland in the 2020 Olympics.
The news is a huge boost for the Ireland Olympic Team and comes after McIlroy had indicated earlier this year he would be ‘likely’ to play in the Japan Olympics after joining so many other leading golfers in boycotting the 2016 Rio Olympics for fear of catching the Zika virus.
“I’m excited to play the Olympics and call myself an Olympian,” confirmed McIlroy ahead of this week’s ZoZo Championship in Japan.
“Coming to such a golf-crazy country like Japan helps. It’s a really good atmosphere and just being here this week and seeing the enthusiasm of the fans makes me look forward to coming back next year and playing the Olympics.”
If the Olympics were held this week, the Ireland team would be McIlroy and Shane Lowry though qualifying does not conclude until mid-July.
Clara star Lowry is already on record as stating his great desire to walk out in the Tokyo Olympic Stadium behind the Ireland flag and now McIlroy is clearly also excited about being a member of the Ireland Olympic Team.
“I’ve had to deal with things in regard to the Olympics that others haven’t had to and that brings questions and difficulties,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I thought I can’t let that stuff ruin my experience of going to the Olympics and playing.”
McIlroy confirmed his intention to represent Ireland back in May when he stated:
“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? It makes you sort of have to delve a little bit deeper. It’s not just a superficial decision. It’s something that you have to really believe in.”
The Holywood star got a small taste of what it will be like competing in an arena such as the Olympics when he attended last weekend’s Rugby World Cup encounter between Ireland and New Zealand in Japan.
And while the result was not what McIlroy or Ireland sought, the four-time major winner enjoyed the experience.
“Yeah, not a great result for Ireland, obviously, but yeah, I was just so impressed with the All Blacks,” he said.
“I’d never watched New Zealand play live before, so to see the haka, to see how they played, they were just so impressive. So as much as it wasn’t the right result for me and for Ireland, I just, I had to sit back and just be in awe and so impressed with New Zealand and how they play rugby and how good they were.
“But it was a great experience. The stadium in Tokyo in a great atmosphere and I was glad that I went.”