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McDowell hints at Olympic allegiance

ESPN staff
November 21, 2013 « Stumbling Bjorn, Streelman hold on to lead | Chartbeat test »
McDowell has admitted he is comfortable representing Ireland at the Olympics © Getty Images
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Graeme McDowell has hinted at his intention to represent Ireland when golf makes its return to the Olympics in 2016.

Athletes born in Northern Ireland have the option of playing for either Ireland or Great Britain in the Games, but by-law two of Rule 41 of the Olympic Charter states that those who have represented a nation in a tournament recognised by the relevant international federation cannot represent another nation at the Olympics within a three year period.

And as McDowell is representing Ireland at the World Cup of Golf in Melbourne this week - a recognised International Golf Federation event - he will now be committed to the Emerald Isle for the Rio Olympics.

The former US Open champion and fellow Ulsterman Rory McIlroy have been very coy on the subject in recent months, but McDowell hinted that the decision has already been made for him.

"It is a very touchy political and religious subject, one that myself and Rory have not really enjoyed answering questions about the last few years because it is very difficult to pick a side because you are going to end up upsetting someone from either side.

"We grew up wanting to wear the green jacket and have the golf bag with the Ireland logo on it. The Golf Union of Ireland looks after all the players in Ireland and I have always enjoyed being part of that.

"When it comes to the Olympic discussion, that raises some questions as to who we play for.

"I was always very much trying to sit on the fence, again, because I really did not want to have to make that decision so part of me feels relieved to not have to make that decision."

McDowell's allegiance could be changed if agreed by the IGF, national Olympic committees and the International Olympic Committee Executive Board.

But such a decision seems unlikely. Back in May, McDowell stated: "The dilemma Rory and I face is a very unique one. Regarding the World Cup of Golf this year for example, that if we played we'd then be compelled to play for Ireland in the Olympic Games - is that rule going to stand?

"I would love to do that and the Olympics will not enter my head with regards to making the decision of whether I'm going to play the World Cup. If it forces me into playing for Ireland at the Olympics, so be it."

McIlroy is still to make a decision, despite the Irish Olympic committee's attempts to sign him up. McIlroy hinted in January he might skip the competition altogether to avoid upsetting anyone.

Golf returns to the Olympic Games after a 112-year absence.

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