Golfer extraordinaire, Rory McIlroy, admitted in a recent interview that he wasn’t forthright when he blamed fear of contracting the Zika virus as the reason that he withdrew from the 2016 Rio Olympics in August.
The world’s #2 ranked golfer explained that he has allegiances to both Ireland and Britain and did not want to offend either country by representing one over the other:
Yeah, I mean when it was announced (that golf was to be an Olympic sport) in 2009 or whatever, all of a sudden it put me in a position where I had to question who I am. Who am I? Where am I from? Where do my loyalties lie? Who am I going to play for? Who do I not want to piss off the most? I started to resent it. And I do. I resent the Olympic Games because of the position it put me in – that’s my feeling towards it – and whether that’s right or wrong, it’s how I feel.
The self-admitted non-nationalist told The Irish Independent that while growing up in Northern Ireland nationalism was frowned upon. “Not everyone is (driven by) nationalism and patriotism and that’s never been me, because I felt like I grew up in a place where I wasn’t allowed to be. It was suppressed. I’m very conflicted because I’m a Catholic.” He continued, “I turned on the TV at home and it was the BBC; I did my GCSEs; I used pounds sterling, stuff like that. So I’m a Catholic but I feel very much ‘Northern Irish’. And I never wanted it to get political or about where I’m from, but that’s what it turned into. And it just got to the point where it wasn’t worth the hassle.”
The 27-year-old four-time major winner says that since many used Zika to explain their nonparticipation in the games, he used it as an excuse. Despite pulling out of the competition, McIlroy did say, however, that he was quick to congratulate UK golfer Justin Rose who won the gold medal in Rio. “I sent Justin Rose a text after he won, I think I still have the message: ‘I’m happy for you, mate. I saw how much it means to you.” McIlroy added that if he “had been on the podium (listening) to the Irish national anthem as that flag went up, or the British national anthem as that flag went up, I would have felt uncomfortable either way.’ I don’t know the words to either anthem; I don’t feel a connection to either flag; I don’t want it to be about flags; I’ve tried to stay away from that.”
In the Independent’s interview, McIlroy also commented that he doesn’t want the kind of life his hero and golf legend Tiger Woods has. “I could not live like that. If someone was to say, ‘You can have 14 Majors and 70 wins but have to deal with that, or nine Majors and 40 wins and stay somewhat the same as you are’, I’d take the second option all day.”