Rory will play for Ireland in ’16

Rory McIlroy announced he will play for Ireland, not Great Britain, in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The 25-year-old from Northern Ireland was eligible to play for either Ireland or Great Britain when golf returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1904 in St. Louis.

“I have been thinking about the decision a lot and remembered all the times I represented Ireland as an amateur,” said McIlroy, who was preparing to play in the Irish Open at Fota Island Golf Club in County Cork.

“I was always very proud to put on the Irish uniform and play as an amateur and as a boy, and I would be very proud to do it again.”

McIlroy played all of his amateur golf under the auspices of the Dublin-based Golfing Union of Ireland, and the two-time major winner opted to stay with Ireland for the Olympics after speculation that he might play for Great Britain.

Citizens of Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, can hold both British and Irish citizenship.

McIlroy, who is Catholic, grew up in the predominantly Protestant town of Holywood east of Belfast, and once said he considered himself more British than Irish.

When he said he might play for the British in 2016, it did not go over well with Irish golf fans and McIlroy suggested that he might skip the Olympics rather than make either side unhappy with him.

Two other Irish major champions, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell, have identified with Ireland, and McIlroy has twice teamed with G-Mac to represent Ireland in the World Cup of Golf.

“Just because I’m getting paid to play this great game now doesn’t mean I should change (teams),” said McIlroy, who won the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional and the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. “So I’m very happy with my decision. It means I can look forward to the Olympics in a couple of years’ time — you know, if I qualify, obviously, for the team.

“I just thought it was the right thing to do. It was the right time to let everyone know. Now I’m really looking forward to Rio in ’16.”

McIlroy said he decided to make his announcement after watching the World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil on television.

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