Why is Rory McIlroy playing golf for Ireland in Olympics? Reason golfer isn't representing Team GB at Tokyo 2020

Rory McIlroy chose to represent Ireland at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics rather than Great Britain.

Rory McIlroy of Team Ireland reacts to his tee shot on the fifth hole during the second round of the Men's Individual Stroke Play on day seven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Kasumigaseki Country Club on July 30, 2021 in Kawagoe, Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy kicked off his Tokyo 2020 Olympics on Thursday, registering a two-under par 69 in his opening round. The four-time major winner is six shots behind Austrian leader Sepp Straka.

The golfer's participation in the Olympics has raised one question – why is he representing Ireland rather than Great Britain?

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McIlroy – who was born in Holywood in Northern Ireland – has struggled with his national identity in the past.

Timetable of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Why is Rory McIlroy representing Ireland in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics?

Rory McIlroy represented Ireland at youth level, but is eligible to represent Great Britain and has previously said he feels more of an affinity with the UK.

In 2012 he was questioned by the Mail Online on whether he would choose to represent Team GB or Ireland at Rio 2016.

"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,” McIlroy said.

"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 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.”

McIlroy went on to miss the 2016 Olympics but opted to represent Ireland in Tokyo.

However, it is not only the decision of who to represent at the Olympics that McIlroy was sceptical about, but also the Olympics itself. It’s fair to say the 32-year-old hasn’t appeared very enthuastic about the competition.

"I don't know what it will mean to win a medal because I grew up dreaming of Claret Jugs and Green Jackets,” He told BBC Sport.