The world of golf rejoiced when the sport was reinstated into the Olympics for 2016. The news, however, gave Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy a headache.
The source of their pain? Northern Ireland doesn't participate in the Olympics as an independent nation, so the two superstars would have to play for either Great Britain or Ireland – meaning that, regardless of which they chose, they were bound to create a lot of hard feelings.
The two have asked for guidance – at one point McDowell even beseeched Olympics officials to make the call for them, while McIlroy said he might just skip the Olympics altogether. Now, though, their die seem to be cast.
McDowell is playing for Ireland in the ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf this week. International sporting regulations call for athletes who compete for one country to sit out at least three years before being eligible to play for another. And the 2016 Olympics are less than two years away.
"Myself and Rory played twice for Ireland [in previous World Cups] and there was never any questions raised as to who we play for in this format. It was really just, like I say, an Irish team," McDowell said. "So I believe that me being here and representing Ireland will, you know, with the Olympic regulations, will mean that … I will have to play for Ireland when it comes to the Olympics in 2016."
Getting that out of the way has taken a pretty significant weight off G-Mac's shoulders.
"Part of me feels relieved to not have to make that decision," he said. "It takes care of another very sensitive problem that I, myself, and Rory in particular, have not enjoyed talking about."
McIlroy is sitting out this World Cup and hasn't said anything about his Olympic situation in a while.
"It has been a pretty touchy subject for us Northern Irish players over the last few years," McDowell explained. "We are in a very unique scenario ... we have sporting teams, teams that are all-Ireland teams, teams that are individual Northern Ireland teams, part of the U.K., part of Great Britain.
"It is a very touchy political and religious subject, one that myself and Rory have not really enjoyed answering questions about the last few years,” he added. “You are going to end up upsetting someone from either side really."