Golf Golf

McIlroy hints at real reason for Olympic snub

Rory McIlroy had cited concerns over the Zika virus when he pulled out of the Rio Olympic Games © AFP / Johannes Eisele

SHANGHAI, China, Oct 26 – Rory McIlroy hinted Wednesday that his Rio Olympic snub may not have been entirely due to fears over the Zika virus, saying his situation was “a little more complicated” than others.

The world number three from Holywood, Northern Ireland, also said he hadn’t turned any thoughts yet to taking part in Tokyo 2020, adding that he would instead “concentrate on the 16 majors that we have between now and then”.

On the eve of “Asia’s Major”, the $9.5-million World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai, McIlroy was asked if he would like to play in “Asia’s Olympics” — Tokyo 2020.

“The participation in the Olympics, for me it’s just a little more complicated than for some other people, (because of) where I’m from and the whole politics of the thing,” McIlroy told a news conference.

He was referring to having to choose whether to represent Great Britain or the Republic of Ireland at the Games, a highly sensitive topic.

Before pulling out ahead of the Rio Games, McIlroy had come under fire from some quarters in Northern Ireland for originally opting to compete under Ireland’s tricolour.

“It’s a difficult subject for me,” he admitted before acknowledging that the sport’s first appearance in the Games for more than 100 years had been a success despite his own initial reservations.

McIlroy had given a blunt assessment of Olympic golf before the Rio Games, saying he probably would not even watch it on TV.

“Probably (I’ll watch) the events like track and field, swimming, diving, the stuff that matters,” he had said.

But McIlroy revealed he had tuned in after all, and was delighted by what unfolded as his Ryder Cup teammates Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson went head-to-head right to the last putt on the final green.

“I was really happy with how golf went in the Olympics. I turned it on in the final afternoon and … you could sense an atmosphere in the crowd.

“It was fantastic for golf, and to have two of our best players in the world battling it out for a gold medal, it was great for the game.

“I was delighted by how well it went and honestly, I was happy to be watching on TV.”

McIlroy got a taste of what he had missed out on at the Sheshan International Golf Club course on Wednesday — as he entered the media centre for a press conference, Stenson was leaving, clutching his gleaming Olympic silver medal.

But McIlroy still would not commit to going to Tokyo. Not yet anyway.

“Four years’ time is a long way away, so we’ll see what happens,” said the four-time major winner.