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Padraig Harrington © Gallo Images

Harrington sympathises with McIlroy

Irishman Padraig Harrington believes Rory McIlroy should not be forced to choose which team he represents at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Golf will be included as an Olympic sport for the first time since 1904, and the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland is eligible to compete for both Ireland and Great Britain. Neither is his country of birth, and the world No 1 revealed in a BBC documentary recently he was considering not playing at all.

“I have massive sympathy, massive sympathy as an Irishman and massive sympathy, more so, as a sportsman,” Harrington said at Durban Country Club where he is playing in the Volvo Golf Champions, a European Tour event, starting on Thursday.

“No sportsman should have to make that decision. That's it, straightforward, nobody at 23 years of age should be asked to make that decision."

Harrington believed the decision should be left to higher authorities, and not McIlroy himself.

“The reality is, there's been people in politics for the last 100 years who have tried to negotiate that and haven't been able to negotiate it," he said.

"So why would you ask a 23-year-old just because he's good at hitting a little white golf ball?”

McIlroy spoke out on the matter for the first time in the recently released documentary.

"If I could and there was a Northern Irish team I'd play for Northern Ireland,” McIlroy said.

"Play for one side or the other, or not play at all because I may upset too many people – those are my three options I'm considering very carefully."

Harrington said his younger counterpart – as the world's best golfer –needed to play in the Olympics to properly represent the game of golf at the quadrennial showpiece.

“It's very unfortunate, and I think it is unfortunate in the sense that it means a big deal, for golf, for him to play. It's a very big deal because golf is only in a trial period in the Olympics," Harrington said.

“We have two runs at it in the next two Olympics, and we do, as golfers, have to perform and put our best foot forward.

“So it would be nice if the world No 1 is there and he's supporting the event. It's an extraordinarily difficult decision.”

Harrington said the whole issue was complicated and there was no correct choice for McIlroy.

“We need our best players to play in the Olympics to show that golf is serious in the Olympics.

"It would be nice if the Olympic council would just clear it up and say, here we go, you can play in the Olympics, or make the decision on their behalf. I don't know.”

As it stood, the 14-time European Tour winner said the issue was hopeless.

“It's only one sport and they have issues in many sports, and they can't just jump in and start making decisions," Harrington said.

"There's going to be no winner out of this one."


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