Graeme McDowell finds himself in the same position as Rory McIlroy, unsure of which country he’ll play for when golf returns to the Olympics in 2016 at Rio de Janeiro.
McDowell, like McIlroy from Northern Ireland, is at the World Cup playing this week with Ireland’s Shane Lowry on a team officially known as Ireland, as part of World Cup tradition.
But at the Olympics, Northern Ireland will be part of a combined team with England, Wales and Scotland competing as Britain. McIlroy, who has played for Ireland in the past, has already said he’s not sure whether he’ll play for Britain or Ireland.
”It has been a pretty touchy subject for us Northern Irish players over the last few years,” McDowell said Wednesday. ”We are in a very unique scenario … we have sporting teams, teams that are all-Ireland teams, teams that are individual Northern Ireland teams, part of the U.K., part of Great Britain.
”It is a very touchy political and religious subject, one that myself and Rory have not really enjoyed answering questions about the last few years … you are going to end up upsetting someone from either side really.”
McDowell said his allegiance to Ireland comes from playing for the country in the past ”the golf bag with the Ireland logo on it … I have always enjoyed being part of that.”
He also realizes that by representing Ireland at the World Cup this week, it could force him to play for the country again at Rio. Generally, players who compete for one country must sit out a period of at least three years before being eligible to play for another.
”From my point of view, when the World Cup came back on the schedule and it was coming to Royal Melbourne, I knew that I wanted to be part of this team," McDowell said.
”Myself and Rory played twice for Ireland in this tournament and there was never any questions raised as to who we play for in this format. It was really just, like I say, an Irish team.
”So I believe that me being here and representing Ireland will, you know, with the Olympic regulations, will mean that I am, I will have to play for Ireland when it comes to the Olympics in 2016.”
And it might have solved his problem.
”So if eligible, if fit enough … part of me feels relieved to not have to make that decision. It takes care of another very sensitive problem that I, myself, and Rory in particular, have not enjoyed talking about.”