CARMEL, Ind. -- Rory McIlroy told a U.K. newspaper that he considers himself more British than Irish, leading to speculation that he will choose Great Britain over Ireland when golf returns to the Olympic Games in 2016.
McIlroy, 23, who solidified his No. 1 world ranking with a victory Sunday at the BMW Championship, told London's Daily Mail that he has faced a difficult dilemma ever since it was announced golf would again be an Olympic sport.
McIlroy is from Holywood, Northern Ireland, not far from Belfast. Northern Ireland is one of four constituent countries -- along with England, Scotland and Wales -- that make up the United Kingdom.
"What makes it such an awful position to be in is I have grown up my whole life playing for Ireland under the Golfing Union of Ireland umbrella," he told the newspaper. "But the fact is, I've always felt more British than Irish.
"Maybe it was the way I was brought up, I don't know, but I have always felt more of a connection with the U.K. than with Ireland. And so I have to weigh that up against the fact that I've always played for Ireland and so it is tough. Whatever I do, I know my decision is going to upset some people but I just hope the vast majority will understand."
The sporting situation in Ireland and the United Kingdom is complicated. In the Olympics, Great Britain competes as one team. And yet in golf's World Cup, all of Ireland competes as one team, while the other nations in the United Kingdom also compete separately.
That is why there is often confusion over the issue. In golf's World Cup, McIlroy could conceivably play with Padraig Harrington -- who is from Dublin in the South -- and represent Ireland. But in the Olympics, he would have the choice of playing for Ireland or the U.K.
The newspaper said it is the "first time he has unequivocally declared an affinity for the U.K. over Ireland."