McIlroy: Majors still the pinnacle

Blackpool Citizen: Graeme McDowell, left, and Rory McIlroy, right, will represent Ireland in the Olympics Graeme McDowell, left, and Rory McIlroy, right, will represent Ireland in the Olympics

Rory McIlroy believes an Olympic medal would not be as important as a major championship, despite announcing his intention to compete for Ireland in 2016.

The 25-year-old had considered not playing in Rio to avoid the controversy involved in choosing either Ireland or Great Britain, but revealed on Wednesday he would continue to represent Ireland, as he did throughout his amateur career and twice in the World Cup.

That raises the possibility of McIlroy battling against Tiger Woods for Olympic gold in Brazil, but the former world number one maintains that major titles will remain the pinnacle of golfing achievement.

"An Olympic medal is still not as big as a major championship but it's up there," McIlroy said. "The majors in our sport are the biggest and best prizes in the game.

"Maybe give it four or five Games down the line and maybe one day the Olympics will be able to get up to that level, but for me the four major championships are the biggest prizes in our game."

McIlroy had previously spoken of being in an "extremely sensitive and difficult position" over which country to represent, while fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell was happy to have the decision taken out of his hands due to an Olympic regulation which stated he could only represent Great Britain if three years had passed since representing Ireland.

That meant McDowell had already committed to playing for Ireland in Rio by contesting last year's World Cup in Melbourne, but McIlroy added: "There's been a lot of people giving their opinion and what they think I should do.

"But at the end of the day it's a decision that I had to make for myself because it's something that you have to live with. It's taken me long enough to sort of get over the hurdle, but it's definitely the right decision.

"I was always very proud to put on the Irish uniform and I would be very proud to do it again. Just because I'm playing golf for money and I'm a professional I'm supposed to have this choice or this decision to make, where if you look at the rugby players, cricketers or hockey players, they view Ireland as one, the same as we do in golf.

"I don't think there's any point to change that or go against that just because it's a different event or it's the Olympics."

McDowell welcomed McIlroy's decision and said he had not received any negative reaction to his own, which could see the Ryder Cup team-mates reunited in Rio.

"I think it's great that he's put it to bed at last," McDowell said. "We are in a very unique scenario in Northern Ireland. We could easily declare for Great Britain or we could easily declare for Ireland.

"We have all-Ireland teams and we have sports which are split; obviously soccer is two teams and rugby is one team. To me, golf is always an all-Ireland sport."

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