Rory McIlroy chose to compete for Ireland over Great Britain in the men’s Olympic golf tournament because “he has always”.
McIlroy is Northern Irish and and Olympians from Northern Ireland are allowed to choose whether represent the Republic of Ireland of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (effectively the UK), given the nation’s divided history. ‘Team GB’ is effectively a branding name, one that controversially excludes Northern Ireland, and there have been calls in the past to rebadge as ‘Team UK’.
McIlroy has said he “feels more British” than Irish but always played under the Irish flag when competing on a national stage as a junior and felt no need to switch allegiances for the Games in Tokyo.
“I made it more difficult for myself than I needed to,” McIlroy explained when announcing the decision. “My feeling towards it was more ‘What will other people think?’ Once I got that out of my head and just tried to do what was right for me, then it became easy. It was me wrestling with all of those things.
“As I said, previously, once I left trying not to upset anyone aside, then it was actually a pretty easy decision. The decision was I’m going to play golf for the country or the nation that I’ve always played for through my junior and amateur days and now into the professional game.
“Even though the Olympics has given me this choice, there really wasn’t a choice because all I’ve done throughout my life is play golf for Ireland so why would that change just because the tournament has changed. That was my decision.”