McIlroy buys time on flag decision for 2016 Games

World number one Rory McIlroy, in a bid to dampen mounting speculation over whether he will represent Britain or Ireland at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, says he is no rush to make a decision.

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McIlroy buys time on flag decision for 2016 Games
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Rory McIlroy

The 23-year-old Northern Irishman eased to a third win in four US PGA Tour starts at the BMW Championship in Carmel, Indiana, on Sunday and, for the moment, wants to devote his entire golfing focus to tournament play.

"I wish to clarify that I have absolutely not made a decision regarding my participation in the next Olympics," McIlroy wrote in an open letter via his Twitter account.

"On a personal level, playing in the Olympics would be a huge honour. However, the Games in Rio are still four years away and I certainly won't be making any decisions with regards to participating any time soon.

"...my focus right now is on being the best player I can be, trying to win major championships and contributing to what will hopefully be a victorious European side at the forthcoming Ryder Cup matches against the USA."

Long regarded as heir apparent to Tiger Woods as the game's leading player, McIlroy has enjoyed a career-best season on the 2012 US PGA Tour highlighted by four wins, including a second Major title at last month's US PGA Championship.

His swashbuckling approach to golf, coupled with his down-to-earth, almost boyish, demeanour with the fans, has made him arguably the most popular player in the game.

However, ever since the decision was made for golf to the return to the Olympics in 2016 for the first time since 1904, McIlroy has felt pressured to signal which flag he would prefer to represent at global sports showpiece.

In 2009, the Northern Irishman said he would "probably play for Great Britain", a sentiment he repeated in a recent interview with the Daily Mail newspaper.

"I am in an extremely sensitive and difficult position..." McIlroy said in his open letter. "I am a proud product of Irish golf and the Golfing Union of Ireland and am hugely honoured to have come from very rich Irish sporting roots, winning Irish boys, youths and amateur titles and playing for Ireland at all levels.

"I am also a proud Ulsterman who grew up in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. That is my background and always will be. I receive huge support from both Irish and British sports fans alike and it is greatly appreciated.

"Likewise, I feel like I have a great affinity with American sports fans. I play most of my golf in the US nowadays and I am incredibly proud to have won both the US Open and the US PGA Championship in the last two years."

McIlroy said he celebrated the fact that he was supported by people all over the world, many of whom treated him "as one of their own".

He added: "This is the way sport should be. Since turning professional at 18, I have travelled the world playing the game that I love and consider myself a global player.

"As the world No. 1 right now, I wish to be a positive role model and a sportsperson that people respect, and enjoy watching."

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