Rory McIlroy faces a very tough decision over his Olympic Games future. Picture: Fran Caffrey www.golffile.ieRory McIlroy admits he faces an agonising decision over who to play for in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

The Holywood star, 22, must choose between Ireland and Great Britain when golf returns to the Olympic arena for the first time in 112 years.

And while Padraig Harrington insists that McIlroy should put emotion aside and choose Team GB to give other Irish players the chance to battle for Olympic gold under the tricolour, McIlroy knows he will cause of storm of protest no matter which side he chooses.

Speaking in Tucson this week, McIlroy said: “I wish my decision wasn’t as big a deal as it is going to be but I know that as soon as I make it, it is going to be a huge deal.

“Whatever way I choose it is going to upset someone. I’ve played for Ireland my whole life at amateur level, playing under the GUI.

“But this is completely different. It’s professional golf. You look at my flag this week and I play under the Northern Ireland flag. World Cup you play as a United Ireland team, the same as the rugby team, the cricket team or the hockey team.

“But the thing about the Olympics is that you have to choose sides and it would be nice not to have to choose.

“Maybe by that time the Olympics comes around the decision will be made for me and I can only get on one team.

“Hopefully that is not the case and I will still be in the top 15 in the world. And if that’s the case, that means that I will have to choose. It’s a decision I wish I didn’t have to make.”

McIlroy straddles all camps these days and a quick look at this week’s newspapers will show how he is claimed by the British, Northern Irish and Irish press as one of their own.

And he knows that there is little chance of the Olympics becoming a non-issue with the R&A giving organisers guarantees that the top players will be available for the Rio de Janeiro Games.

His girlfriend, the Danish tennis star and world No 4 Caroline Wozniacki, finished ninth in her bid for a singles medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

And McIlroy knows first hand how determined she is to win a medal at this summer’s London Olympics.

He said: “The Olympics is a big deal now in tennis and being close to it, I know how big a deal it is for Caroline to play and how much she wants to have a medal.

“So maybe if I get a taste for it, I will really appreciate what it is. But up until then, I’d still view this event as a bigger event than the Olympics.

“It’s going to be hard to make this decision and if I knew that I wasn’t going to upset someone I wouldn’t mind.

“But because I am going to upset one side or the other, it is a difficult position to be in. I didn’t put myself in this position, it is just something that has been thrust upon me.”

In the hypothetical case that he were to opt for Ireland, McIlroy said: “That won’t upset English people, or Scottish people or Welsh people. It will upset some Northern Irish people so it is just a very tough one.

“One thing I do know and that’s that golf is going to be fantastic for the Olympics.”

McIlroy’s pal Graeme McDowell is in the same boat when it comes to Olympic allegiance and wishes the decision was taken out of his hands.

G-Mac said: “Padraig said Rory and I should claim Great Britain and free up more spots in the world rankings for Irish players. But this is four years down the line.

“We don’t know what is going to be happening in four years’ time. I hope myself and Rory and many more Irish players are in the top 15 in the world and it will be a great problem to have.

“But right now it’s a tough decision and I’d prefer if someone made that decision for me.”