Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy are in a unique situation: The two Northern Irishmen can compete in the next Olympic Games for Ireland or England.
Since Northern Ireland is officially a part of the part of the United Kingdom, McIlroy and McDowell can represent either country. In regular golf tournaments, Northern Ireland, Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales are represented independently.
Rio de Janeiro is the host city for the Games, scheduled for Aug. 5 to 21, 2016. Although it seems far away, questions are already arising about the rules of qualification. There also is a debate about whether the two golfers should choose the nation to represent or the Olympic Committee should decide for them.
McIlroy recently said he wasn’t sure what country he would represent in the Olympics. It was rumored Pat Hickey, president of the Irish Olympic Committee, was trying to entice the top golfer in the world to carry the flag in the opening ceremonies for Ireland. Hickey has denied the claim.
McDowell is currently playing in the BMW Masters. In Shanghai on Thursday, he said he wants assistance with the decision.
“Obviously, Rory’s come under a lot of scrutiny in the last couple of months for kind of saying he might play for Great Britain. We’re kind of in a unique scenario in Northern Ireland in that we have one foot on each team. I think it’s going to be a lot easier if someone makes the decision for us.”
”The Olympic committee should step in and say that ‘You guys are either playing for Ireland or you’re playing for Great Britain.”’
McDowell is from Portrush, a small town on the northern Irish coast. He has been a professional golfer for 10 years and has won eight tournaments, including the 2010 U.S. Open. He has also been on the European Ryder Cup team.
Although plans may change, qualification for the Olympic Games will probably be determined by World Golf Rankings following the 2016 British Open Championship.
Golf is actually making a comeback in Rio de Janeiro. It was last played as an official Olympic sport in 1924.
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