Rory McIlroy has confirmed his intention to play for Ireland at the 2020 Olympics.
The Northern Irishman had been scheduled to go to the 2016 Games in Rio but pulled out because of concerns over the Zika virus.
In the build-up to the last Olympics, McIlroy, who was born in Holywood, County Down, admitted having to make a choice over which nation to play for had left him somewhat resentful over the whole saga.
The 30-year-old was asked about his plans for Tokyo 2020 as he prepared for this week’s USPGA Championship at Bethpage in New York.
“More likely than not I will play. I think it would be a great experience,” McIlroy said at a press conference. “Right now in my mind, I’ll most likely play.”
Asked which nation he intended to represent, McIlroy, who played for Ireland as an amateur, replied: “The same one I said I would a few years ago.”
Returning to the subject later in the press conference, McIlroy gave a more detailed account of the reasoning behind his decision.
With Neil Manchip, who used to coach McIlroy as an amateur, set to lead the Ireland team in Japan, the world number four admitted he would probably get “a little bit nostalgic”.
McIlroy said: “I think as a young boy it was always my dream to play for Ireland. I wanted to play for Ireland. I was very proud to put on that shirt or that blazer.
“It’s the same as like the rugby players, right? There’s players that play for Ulster, but they want to play for Ireland. It’s seen as a whole-island sport, just like hockey is, just like most of the sports are.
“So then obviously when you put the Olympics into the equation and then there’s a choice to be made, you really have to start thinking: ‘okay, well, what are your beliefs and your values?’
“It makes you sort of have to delve a little bit deeper. It’s not just a superficial decision. It’s something that you have to really believe in.”
McIlroy continued: “I’ve thought about that for a long time, and in the end, it was the fact that when I was a little boy and I got that first call up to the national squad to go on to Citywest and be a part of the youth system and making that team and playing in home internationals, I was so proud to do that.
“So why would it be any different just because it’s a different golf tournament or because it’s a different arena or a different environment? That was basically what it came down to.
Power Rankings before the PGA Championship:— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) 14 May 2019
“I had an unbelievable amateur career, and I don’t mean that in terms of results, but I mean that in the experiences I had and the trips that I had and the friendships that I made and the friendships that I still have to this day.
“That was all because of playing for Ireland and getting close to some of those guys.
“I’m excited to be going to the Olympics. I’m excited to play for Ireland.”
McIlroy hopes he can play himself into contention for another Major this week.
The Northern Irishman, twice a US PGA champion, will again be among the favourites as he looks to make an impact at Bethpage after seeing his Masters challenge falter.
“I have a pretty good record at the PGA, a couple of wins and decent finishes,” said McIlroy, who hit a closing 73 in the Wells Fargo Championship which saw him drop out of contention for a victory at Quail Hollow.
“We are playing at a golf course I like, and have experience on, if I play the way I can, hopefully, I will have a chance.”