World Cup factor led Rory McIlroy to pick Ireland for the 2016 Rio Olympics

The world No 6 represented the Republic as an amateur

Rory McIlroy will represent Ireland when golf returns to the Olympic Games in 2016 in Brazil. After deliberating for the best part of two years McIlroy finally put his loyalty to Irish golf above his British citizenship, thanks to a little nudge from the World Cup.

McIlroy’s junior career was funded in part by the Golf Union of Ireland, whom he represented in competitions as an amateur.

“I feel like it’s the right decision for me. There’s no point in delaying it and letting it linger any longer. Watching the World Cup in Brazil, thinking about Brazil in a couple of years’ time, it just sort of got me thinking, maybe I should just go ahead and get it out of the way, and really look forward now to the Olympics in a couple years’ time. I was always very proud to put on the Irish uniform and play as an amateur and as a boy, and I would be very proud to do it again.”

McIlroy’s announcement on the eve of the Irish Open took the heat out of the Olympic issue, which always acquires a sharper focus on home soil.

The delayed arrival of his clubs after going missing over the Atlantic on his return from the US Open saw another headache cured.

If he can locate the putter this week, he might even get the reward his ball-striking deserves. With the news that Tiger Woods is advancing his recovery, the season gains a new impetus leading up to the Open Championship at Hoylake next month.

McIlroy, already a winner at Wentworth last month, has also included the Scottish Open in Aberdeen as part of his major preparations, which begin today at the Fota Island links in Cork. “The win at Wentworth a few weeks ago was great. The last couple of tournaments, Memorial and US Open, there were flashes of good stuff, and I fell away over the weekend at the US Open which was quite disappointing.

“There’s a lot to play for this week. I’ve got a chance to go to the top of The Race to Dubai and a chance to get back into the top five in the world, so it’s not a week I’m taking lightly. I have been disappointed with my performances at this event. I want to come here and put my best foot forward and try to get a win.”