Golfer Rory McIlroy "is almost certain to play for Ireland and not Great Britain at the next Olympics," according to Karl MacGinty of the IRISH INDEPENDENT. The golfer's dilemma over who to represent at the 2016 Games was resolved Tuesday when world ruling body, the Royal & Ancient, "revealed it was ready to instruct McIlroy and Graeme McDowell to play for Ireland in Rio." World No. 2 McIlroy was so torn by this issue, he suggested last year that he might "withdraw from the Games rather than have to choose between the two sides," while world No 8. McDowell appealed for the game's governing bodies to make that call. That plea was answered Tuesday when R&A CEO & Int'l Golf Federation President Peter Dawson said that "Ireland would have first call on the gifted Ulstermen." Dawson: "I would very much like to take this burden of choice away from the player if we can possibly do it because it's not fair to him. I think he's made it pretty clear in one or two pronouncements that he (McIlroy) is worried about it and the last thing we want is players worrying about this (IRISH INDEPENDENT, 4/24).
PICK A SIDE: The BBC reported the 23-year-old golfer grew up in Holywood, County Down, on the outskirts of east Belfast in Northern Ireland and "would be eligible to play for either Great Britain or Ireland for the Rio Games" (BBC, 4/24). In London, Kevin Garside wrote McIlroy's absence "would have been a huge blow for a sport keen to use the Olympics as a platform to grow the game in a part of the world where participation is low." The Olympic tournament will be a conventional 72-hole strokeplay event, "with a pledge to review the format if it proves unsuitable in the Olympic setting." Dawson "expects all the leading players to participate." Construction of the course, the late start to which was also a concern for the R&A, "can finally begin after the relevant permits were issued by the Brazilian authorities last week" (INDEPENDENT, 4/24).
PLAYING BY THE RULES: Also in London, James Corrigan wrote Dawson has been in discussions with the IOC, "with which he holds a lot of sway," and with McIlroy himself. Dawson: "Because of Rory's history of playing for Ireland at amateur level and I think as a professional in the World Cup there may be a regulation within the Olympic rules that would require him to stay with that and play for Ireland. There is a rule in the Olympics that a player who has represented one nation at a previous world championship for a certain country will carry on with them." That would apply to McIlroy, "who played for Ireland in the world championship at both amateur and professional levels and in the World Cup of Golf as a pro." McIlroy "was unavailable for comment on Tuesday" (TELEGRAPH, 4/24).