Rory McIlroy's Dilemma: Will He Play for Ireland or Great Britain in 2016?

Carolina FinleyContributor IIIOctober 2, 2012

Rory at the Ryder Cup
Rory at the Ryder CupAndy Lyons/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy may have had a problem over the weekend distinguishing between Eastern Standard and Central Standard Time, but he is soon to have a bigger problem on his hands: how to decide which country to represent in the 2016 Olympics.

Although four years away, Rory recently took the unusual step of releasing a letter on his twitter account about his intentions. He explained that he is in an "extremely sensitive and difficult position" over his "national allegiance."

The issue is whether he will play for Ireland or Great Britain at the Rio Games.

Being born in Northern Ireland, which is both on the Irish mainland and part of the United Kingdom, he is eligible for both teams.

Northern Ireland, although quiet recently, has for decades been the site of a violent struggle between IRA and Loyalist factions. Political affiliations and national identity are issues that Rory finds himself unwillingly at the center of. 

Rory is from a catholic background in a mainly protestant county, but at 23, is young enough to have grown up during a time when the majority of Northern Ireland embraced peace and focused on economic advancement.

His focus has been on golf, not on national identity.

Although for the most part successful at keeping out of any controversy, McIlroy has in recent weeks found the questions surrounding his national allegiance overtaking his popularity due to his golfing talent and achievements. Which country he will play for became front-page news at home.

He released the letter after speculation and questions arose regarding his loyalty and intentions, as some media outlets were suggesting he would play for Great Britain.  

Personally, McIlroy is known for his sunny disposition and good-natured behavior. Even Tiger Woods, not noted for his camaraderie with other golfers, has taken a shine to him.

He has no wish to make a political statement or create a controversy. The closest he seems to want to get to politics is shaking former President George W. Bush's hand before his Sunday Ryder Cup match. But with golf returning to the Olympics after a 112-year hiatus, politics deem that each side has a claim and want him to play on their team.

And who wouldn’t want the world No. 1 on their side?

In the letter he states he has not made a decision, will not do so for some time and thanks his fans both Irish and British. He may have made both nations happy with his Ryder Cup play, but whatever he decides for Rio will leave a large number of fans unhappy with his choice and even questioning the integrity of his decision.

In his letter he goes on to mention his great affinity with American sports fans and the fact that he plays most of his golf now in the US. He has also put his Northern Ireland home up for sale as he says he doesn't spend enough time there.

In the interest of keeping peace, might he join the growing ranks of European golfers living stateside, and find a way to play for America in 2016 instead?