Rory McIlroy details real reason behind skipping Olympics – Yahoo Sports

Rory McIlroy caught a lot of flak, from all sides, when he told reporters at the British Open why he wasn’t taking part in golf’s return to the Olympic games.

Among other things, McIlroy said he “didn’t get into golf to try and grow the game,” a saucy retort to many in the sport that opined participation in Rio was practically compulsory for the future of the sport. McIlroy didn’t play — and neither did about two dozen eligible players, almost all men — and the men’s tournament turned out to be a great duel between Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.

Now, some five months removed from the Olympics, McIlroy details the real reason he chose not to compete in the Olympics.

Golf’s governing bodies give Northern Ireland-born players the option to represent either country in international competition, creating a conflict for those players who face a cultural sensitivity on both sides of the border between the two countries. After a lengthy and pressure-packed waiting period, McIlroy had announced in 2015 that he intended to represent Ireland, not Great Britain, in the Olympics. He said he felt more Irish than British. Immediately afterward, he was castigated in his home country. Eventually, McIlroy became uncomfortable representing either flag.

“Not everyone is driven by nationalism and patriotism,” McIlroy told the Irish Independent. McIlroy said he “identifies himself as Northern Irish rather than British or Irish.”

The four-time major champion took it one step further, focusing his frustration and anger at the International Olympic Committee for making him choose.

“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?” he said.

“I started to resent it and I do. I resent the Olympics Games because of the position it put me in, that’s my feelings towards it, and whether that’s right or wrong, it’s how I feel.”

After Rose won the gold medal, the two spoke via text message, and McIlroy explained to Rose how he would have felt awkward on the medal stand had he gotten there.

“I don’t know the words to either [the Irish or British national anthem],” he said. “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.”

So, in three-plus years when the time comes again, what will McIlroy do for the Tokyo Games? He didn’t indicate in the interview. Perhaps the International Golf Federation can take the decision off McIlroy’s plate.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.