Olympic allegiance - "Emotions should be taken out of it" says Harrington

Padraig Harrington played his role in helping golf return to the Olympic Games. Picture courtesy randa.orgPadraig Harrington believes he’s doing Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell a favour by advising them to declare for Team Great Britain in the 2016 Olympics.

Clarifying the remarks he made in a TV interview to be broadcast on Setanta Ireland this weekend, the Dubliner reckons he’s giving the Northern Ireland pair the perfect “way out” of an emotive Britain v Ireland debate that could leave other Irish players “devastated” if they miss the boat to Rio de Janeiro.

Dismissing emotions over flags and banners as irrelevant in what he feels is a problem easily solved by pure logic, Harrington said: “The man in the street is not looking at the logic behind the decision, he is looking at the emotions behind the decision. Emotions should be taken out of it.

“Why keep asking Rory to make an emotional decision? Rory can get away from the emotional decision by saying, ‘Look, I am going to do what is logical and best for golf on this island.’

“What’s logical and best for golf on this island, as things stand today, is for the two boys to declare for Great Britain and for four from the island of Ireland to play in the Olympics.

“It’s simple and straightforward. We can have a chance of four people winning at the Olympics and it doesn’t matter where they are from.

“When a guy from Northern Ireland wins a major or a tournament, those in the UK show their support for him and those in Ireland show their support for him.

“Every side wins. It doesn’t have to be one way or the other.”

Under Olympic qualifying rules, the top 15 in the world rankings qualify automatically for the Rio de Janeiro Games, no matter what their nationality.

All 15 could hail from the US, the UK or even Ireland.

The remaining nations outside the top 15 would then be entitled to send two players, providing they didn’t already have two in the top 15.

If world No 2 McIlroy and No 11 McDowell remain in the top 15 in four years’ time and declare for Great Britain, Ireland could then send its two highest ranked players.

As things stand today, world No 52 Darren Clarke and 90th ranked Harrington would then play for the Irish Olympic team.

Harrington added: “The rules actually benefit Ireland. Because of the top 15 element to it, if Graeme and Rory declared for Ireland in four years and they were still in the top 15, Darren and I wouldn’t get into the Olympics even if we were 16th and 17th in the world.

“Why bring emotions into it? It’s logical. I am sure than Darren Clarke or myself would be devastated if we didn’t get to play in the Olympics because of political interference. We would be devastated.

“If the boys stay in the top 15, you’ve got Michael Hoey, Gareth Maybin and Darren Clarke all from the North. If the two boys declare for Great Britain, that opens up the chance for the others to declare for Ireland.

“What if Rory and Graeme played for Ireland and Shane Lowry missed out. Shane wouldn’t be just disappointed, he’d be absolutely devastated.

“All I was trying to say that there is not a decision to be made. It’s a logical thing. Rory doesn’t have to make an emotive decision and doesn’t have to answer the question.

“I think in golf we have always seen it as one island. I can guarantee you that the Golfing Union of Ireland can take credit if Rory wins an Olympic gold medal representing Great Britain. I don’t have any issue with that.

“The most patriotic thing you can do at this very moment is declare for Britain because it gives four guys from Ireland a chance. If they declare for Ireland, there will only be two.”

In the unlikely event that McDowell and McIlroy are the only “British” players inside the top 15 in the world rankings in 2016, a move to declare for Team GB would leave England, Wales and Scotland without a representative in Rio.