With the Ryder Cup a little more than two weeks away Rory McIlroy ought to be celebrating the best form of his career. Back-to-back victories in the United States in the wake of his second major triumph at the US PGA Championship have consolidated his position as the world's best golfer. Yet he finds himself caught on the horns of an uncomfortable dilemma triggered by the success of London 2012 and the debut of golf as an Olympic sport four years hence in Rio.
McIlroy's golfing roots are Irish. He was nurtured by the Golfing Union of Ireland and represented Ireland in his youth. Having won only one gold medal at London 2012, through boxer Katie Taylor, Ireland would dearly like to claim him. But as a son of Northern Ireland McIlroy carries a UK passport and is culturally British.
The complexity of the issue prompted him into the unusual step of issuing an open letter last night spelling out his unease, if not a solution. McIlroy said: "I am in an extremely sensitive and difficult position. I am a proud product of Irish golf and the Golfing Union of Ireland and am hugely honoured to have come from very rich Irish sporting roots, winning Irish Boys, Youths and Amateur titles and playing for Ireland at all levels. I am also a proud Ulsterman who grew up in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. That is my background and always will be."
He added: "I wish to clarify that I have absolutely not made a decision regarding my participation in the next Olympics. On a personal level, playing in the Olympics would be a huge honour. However, the Games in Rio are still four years away and I certainly won't be making any decisions regarding my participation any time soon."
McIlroy hopes the matter has been nipped in the bud ahead of the finale of the lucrative Fed Ex play-offs in Atlanta next week and more importantly the Ryder Cup at the end of the month. European captain, Jose-Maria Olazabal, doubtless shares that view. About his form after adding the BMW Championship to the Deutsche Bank title the previous weekend, McIlroy was more upbeat. "I sort of picked up where I left off in Boston, shot 64 the first day here. I'm just playing with a lot of confidence right now. I want to keep it going for as long as possible."
Glory for Rory: McIlroy's form
Rory McIlroy is 41 under for his last 12 rounds:
The Barclays, 23-26 Aug (Par 71)
Round 1 69 Round 2 73
Round 3 69
Round 4 72
Deutsche Bank Ch'ship, 31 Aug - 3 Sep (Par 71)
Round 1 65
Round 2 65
Round 3 67
Round 4 67
BMW Ch'ship, 6-9 Sep (Par 72)
Round 1 64
Round 2 68
Round 3 69
Round 4 67