In the build-up to the last Olympics, McIlroy admitted having to make a choice over which nation to play for had left him somewhat resentful over the whole saga. The 30-year-old was asked about his plans for Toyko 2020 as he prepared for this week’s US PGA Championship. “More likely than not I will play. I think it would be a great experience,” McIlroy said at a press conference. “Right now in my mind, I’ll most likely play.” Asked which nation he intended to represent, McIlroy, who played for Ireland as an amateur, replied: “The same one I said I would a few years ago.”
McIlroy later gave a more detailed account of the reasoning behind his decision. With Neil Manchip, who used to coach McIlroy as an amateur, set to lead the Ireland team in Japan, the world No 4 admitted he would probably get “a little bit nostalgic”.
McIlroy said: “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. I’ve thought about that for a long time, and in the end, it was the fact that when I was a little boy and I got that first call up to the national squad and be a part of the youth system and making that team and playing in Home Internationals, I was so proud to do that.
“So why would it be any different just because it’s a different golf tournament or because it’s a different arena or a different environment? That was basically what it came down to. I’m excited to be going to the Olympics. I’m excited to play for Ireland.”