RORY McIlroy has declared that he wants to play for Ireland at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The Northern Irishman had been scheduled to appear at the 2016 Games in Rio De Janeiro but pulled out due to concerns about the Zika virus.
McIlroy, who was born in County Down, admits that he had a tough decision to make over which nation he’d represent at the Olympics three years ago but confirmed his intention to represent Ireland after admitting that as child it was his “dream”.
Preparing for the US PGA Championships this weekend at Bethpage in New York, the 30-year-old was asked about his Olympic plans.
— RTEgolf (@RTEgolf) May 14, 2019
“More likely than not I will play,” he said during a press conference.
“I think it would be a great experience.”
When asked which nation he intended to represent, McIlroy responded: “The same one I said I would a few years ago.”
The 4-time major winner added: “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 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’s former youth coach Neil Manchip will lead the Ireland team in Japan and the world number four admits that the time he spent in the Irish youth system and the nostalgia of linking up with his former ameteur coach had a big impact on his decision.
"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,” he continued.
"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.
"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."
Golf was reinstated as an event in the summer Olympics in 2016 after a 112-year absence - previously featuring in the 1904 and 1900 Games.