Padraig Harrington admits that Rory McIlroy is in “a horrible place” when it comes to deciding between playing for Ireland or Team GB in the 2016 Olympic Games.
The Dubliner is sticking to his belief that give the rules it would be “logical” for him to opt for Britain and free up a spot in Rio de Janeiro for another Irish player.
But the 41-year old also recognised that the age old question of allegiance has left the 23-year old world No 1 in an impossible position.
“There’s no correct answer, there really isn’t,” Harrington said in a post-round interview in Dubai with Sky Sports golf presenter David Livingstone. “Unfortunately, if he says he’s going to play for Ireland he’ll alienate a lot of people from Northern Ireland.
“If he says he’s playing for Britain he’ll alienate a lot of people in the south. There is no correct answer whatsoever. It’s a horrible place to be. I don’t think anybody would like to have to make that decision or be in his boots when it comes to it.
“But I guess that’s what being the world number one is all about. That’s why he gets paid the big bucks, to make these hard decisions at times. But I’m glad I don’t have to.”
McIlroy caused a stir earlier this year when he told the Daily Mail that he always felt “more British than Irish”. But after being taken aback by the level of abuse he received, he quickly issued an “Open Letter” insisting he had not yet made up his mind.
Harrington feels sorry for the young Co Down man, who is being asked to take sides in a debate that led to partition and bloodshed.
“Politicians in the north and south have been trying to answer that question since 1922,” Harrington said “If they haven’t managed to successfully answer the question, how can you ask a 23-year-old to put himself out there on a limb. But unfortunately in 2016 it will come around.
“The selection process does lean a little in favour of those in Ireland. Say, at the moment if Rory declared for the UK it would mean his good friend Shane Lowry would get into the Irish team.
“Whereas, if Rory declares for Ireland Shane Lowry – his management stablemate and a friend of his – wouldn’t get to play in the Olympics. So there is a logical way of going about it.”
Logical it may be, but McIlroy can’t win, no matter what he decides.