• PGA Tour

McIlroy puts Olympic decision on hold

ESPN staff
September 20, 2012
Rory McIlroy has dismissed the notion that he 'intimidates' Tiger Woods © Getty Images

Rory McIlroy has admitted he did not anticipate the backlash to the idea that he considers himself "more British than Irish".

McIlroy revealed in an interview earlier in September that he "felt more of a connection with the UK than with Ireland" when asked who he might choose to represent when golf makes its Olympic debut in Rio in 2016.

McIlroy has represented Ireland at golf's World Cup, with the Irish team selected from both Eire and Northern Ireland, but at the Olympics he would be eligible for Great Britain, which incorporates Northern Irish athletes.

And while McIlroy was aware that some people would be upset by his decision, he had not foreseen the widespread disappointment felt by Irish fans who have followed his rise to the upper echelons of world golf.

"Over the past week it has really hit home just how important my success is for a lot of people and what it means to them," McIlroy told the Daily Mail.

'I've had support from all sides, from people who call themselves Irish, from Northern Irish, to the whole of the UK, to people in America, and it would be terrible for me to segregate myself from one of those groups that support me so much.

"It's four years away before I have to decide about the Olympics, and after everything that happened last week, it definitely makes me reconsider my position and reconsider a lot of things."

McIlroy plays his first round at the Tour Championship on Thursday, starting the event in pole position to land the $10 million bonus for winning the four-tournament FedEx Cup, though the build-up to the Ryder Cup has added another dimension to the build-up in Atlanta.

McIlroy has been declared a "marked man" by US Ryder Cup veteran Jim Furyk, while Greg Norman believes the Northern Irishman has managed to intimidate the man he has usurped as golf's leading light, Tiger Woods.

But McIlroy was among the first to dismiss Norman's claims. "How can I intimidate Tiger? The guy has got 75 US Tour wins and 14 majors, he's the biggest thing to ever happen in our sport.

"How could some little 23 year old from Northern Ireland with a few wins intimidate him? It's just not possible. I don't know where Greg got it from but it is not true."

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