RORY McIlroy has said he would play for ‘Team Northern Ireland’ – if there was such a thing – in the next Olympics.
The comments form part of a documentary into the 23-year-old golf prodigy’s sporting and personal life.
In the show, scheduled for broadcast on Thursday night, McIlroy airs his thoughts on fame, fortune and the decision on whether or not to compete at the 2016 Olympics – and which country, the UK or Ireland, to represent.
In a selection of comments from the documentary, revealed to the News Letter before the broadcast tonight, McIlroy says: “If I could and there was a Northern Ireland team I’d play for Northern Ireland.
“Being from where we’re from we’re placed in a very difficult position.
“I have three options … that’s play for Ireland, play for Britain or not play at all just because I don’t want to upset too many people.”
Previously, a furore erupted after he remarked that he personally identifies more with Britain.
Among the comments, initially made to the Daily Mail’s sports section in September but which have since been reported around the world, was this acknowledgement by McIlroy: “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 UK 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.”
It was taken by some as a statement of intent to play for the British team – sparking anger from some quarters.
But Pat Finn, general secretary of the Golfing Union of Ireland, which comprises 430 clubs across the island – including McIlroy’s home club of Holywood in Co Down – said at the time: “Personally, I wouldn’t see it as an insult for the GUI if a player chooses to play for Great Britain.”
McIlroy subsequently sent out a statement saying he was undecided which team to play for.
Among the other subjects covered in tonight’s show will be McIlroy’s girlfriend, tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, who will talk about what it’s like to date one of the most recognisable sportsmen in the world. On her relationship with McIlroy, Wozniacki says: “There’s definitely a lot of effort to make it (the relationship) work – and it’s working out very well.
“It’s great, he’s doing so well and the dreams he’s had since he started playing are coming true.”
The programme will also contain archive footage of McIlroy, who was a fixture at Holywood Golf Club even before he entered his teens, as well as interviews with rival sportsman Tiger Woods, and Michael Bannon, who coached McIlroy from an early age.
According to the latest official world golf rankings, McIlroy is currently the world’s number one player.
Former world number one Woods will say in the show that practice is the secret to success, remarking that: “His [McIlroy’s] time management skills are a must.
“Media and other requests start taking its time away from preparation – he has done a pretty good job of it so far.”
BBC NI’s Stephen Watson said: “What a year it has been for Rory.
“Not only did he become world number one and topped the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic, but he also ended the season with a spectacular tournament in Dubai at the DP World Tour Championship, making a birdie on the last five holes in his final round.
“It has been a pleasure to follow Rory and to get amazing access to his world.”
n The show, called Rory: Being Number One, will be broadcast on BBC One Northern Ireland at 10.35pm on Thursday night.
The programme follows Rory McIlroy – The Interview, broadcast on RTE2 on December 27.