Harrington comments ignite Olympic debate for McIlroy and McDowell


PADRAIG Harrington neatly dropped Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell into a debate over Olympic representation yesterday.
The two Ulster golfers have studiously avoided declaring their intentions when discussing the return of golf to the Games in 2016.
However, in an hour-long programme to be aired on Setanta on Saturday night, Harrington makes it clear that he harbours ambitions to win an Olympic gold while advocating that Rory should declare for GB.
“I’m fascinated with all this conversation about who we declare for. If Rory and Graeme declare forGreat Britain, it means we get two more Irish guys into it,” said the three-time major champion who has dropped to 90th in the world rankings.
“As in myself and Darren Clarke get to play. You see the system works if you’re in the top fifteen, you can have more than two from the country.
“So if somebody wants Rory to be as Irish as he can be, he better declare for GB and we get two more guys in. When it comes down to it, it will be a complete no brainer because nobody is losing out, you’re actually just gaining a couple of more spots for Irish guys.”
It’s hard to argue with Harrington’s logic, but the issue of ‘allegiance’ remains an awkward one for golfers from Northern Ireland.
McDowell and McIlroy happily represented Ireland as amateurs and played together in the World Cup under the Ireland banner but now they have a choice to make which in some respects, they probably wish was taken out of their hands.
The news prompted McDowell, who is competing on the European Tour in Qatar to tweet, “Chill out Padraig. It’s 4 years away. If we have 2 Irish men in the top 15 in world at that point it’s a good problem.”
When asked about his own intentions McDowell replied, “I’ve no idea how it will work out. Whoever will have me basically.”
Last August, McIlroy skillfully sidestepped the issue claiming, “It’d be a huge honour to represent your country in the Olympics. It’d be a great achievement to win a gold medal.”
When pressed further he added, “Basically, if I’m going to be honest, like I usually am, whatever I say it’s going to upset someone. So I may as well say ‘I don’t know’ and wait until four or five years’ time when I have to make a decision.”
The interview is the first in a new series on Setanta called THE CUT LINE where recently retired European Tour Pro Gary Murphy meets players such Padraig Harrington, Shane Lowry and Des Smyth among others.
“I think in time, an Olympic gold would be every bit as big as a fourth major,” adds Harrington.
“Being an Olympian is very important. Winning the gold will have relevance in time. It will definitely be career defining, and certainly an Olympic gold would be top of my CV.”

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