Perhaps we’ve got it all wrong and Rory McIlroy is about to declare that while he feels more British than Irish he just couldn’t risk having to wear something as horrendous as the Jimmy Saville style gold lamé shellsuit imposed on Team GB for London 2012.
One strongly suspects, however, that he made his mind up a long time ago and it’s time for golf fans from the Republic of Ireland to wake up and accept the fact that while he played for Ireland as an amateur, representing Irish golf with great disctinction, his Olympic future looks distinctly red, white and blue.
Let’s face it, he dropped a few hints on his “cultural identity” long before the subject became highly contentious and we don’t mean the MBE or David Cameron’s invitation to join him at the White House. And while he quickly moved to quash the uproar in Ireland with an “Open Letter” (left), one fears that it has come too late:
1 When I interviewed him for Golf Digest Ireland in December 2006, he said: “I would identify myself as British. I’m from Northern Ireland so I’m a British citizen and I’ve got a British passport.”
2 During the 2009 US PGA at Hazeltine, golf was recommended for inclusion in the 2016 Olympic Games. McIlroy was asked for his reaction and said: “If I’m lucky enough to be on Team GB or whatever, it would be great, like Tom Daley, the diver. It would be great if he won a gold medal there and I was able to watch it and be part of a team. It would be awesome.”
When asked about the Olympics when competing for Ireland with Graeme McDowell in the World Cup in China later that year, he played the “it’s seven years away” card, now known as the “it’s four years away card.”
Q. Going back to that Olympic question, would you qualify to play for GB or do either of you have any sort of secret forebears that maybe Jack Charlton might use to get you into playing for Ireland?
RORY McILROY: We are in a privileged position that we can play for either one that we like. If we don’t make one team, we can play for the other. (Laughter) depends. It depends how it falls.
As his status grew, McIlroy became increasingly more uncomfortable with being identified as the great Irish hope, especially when the Irish Open was played in Limerick and Killarney.
His poor attitude at the Kerry venue, which was highly criticised in private by many high profile figures in the game both at home and abroad, damaged him in the eyes of golf fans south of the border.
Those who had worshipped the teenage “Beatle” who blazed a trial in Irish amateur golf, winning championships and setting course records everywhere from Sligo and Westport to Wicklow and his native Ulster, wondered what became of the tousled hair young tyro.
By the time the 2011 Irish Open rolled around, he was the US Open champion. The European Tour’s chief execitive compared him to Elvis. Killarney was almost too small for him. His attitude was far worse and the event moved to Northern Ireland this year, where he was a model of good behaviour.
As for the Olympic issue, he’s maintained the same stance for the past three years when speaking on the record: “No matter what I do, I am going to upset someone.”
What he told the Daily Mail was the souped up version of what he’s been saying for years. “I’m British” became “I feel more British than Irish” and he has now given himself a problem he didn’t need with the FedEx Cup finale and the Ryder Cup just around the corner.
Perhaps he could have taken a leaf out of McDowell’s book and called for kindly administrators - the R&A perhaps - to take the decision of his hands. That’s an unlikely scenario and when the date arrives, McIlroy will make it official, if he qualifies and still feels like playing.
While it would be wonderful to see him tee it up for Ireland in the Olympic Games as a figurehead for everything the Golfing Union of Ireland has done for golf in the 32 counties, the player himself has stronger allegiances.
That UK sport will steal a little Irish thunder should he play for Team GB and win a medal is a huge shame. Yet we will always be a member of the Irish golfing family.
Certainly no-one could question his dedication to the cause. I have yet to hear a story of McIlroy being told not to use a ball sporting a Union Jack logo when playing for Ireland in the Home Internationals.
Nor did he try to sell off all his Ireland gear on eBay when he turned professional before swiftly put his hand out for a grant from the Team Ireland Golf Trust.
There are those who believe that this is an orchestrated, drip feed campaign to let Ireland down slowly. If it is, McIlroy has changed his style. He’s always straight up and honest in his opinions.
What’s tragic is the hullabaloo over the Olympic allegiance question has overshadowed one of the greatest streteches of golfing seen since Tiger Woods was in his prime a decade ago.
No-one born on this small island, marooned off the west coast of Europe, has ever played as well. As golf fans, let’s applaud that instead. No need for flags or anthems, thank you.