It appears that while Zika might have been a contributing factor to Rory McIlroy's decision to skip the return of golf to the Olympic Games in Rio, his decision also hinged on the fact he had to choose what flag to compete under.
In an interview with the Irish Independent's Paul Kimmage, McIlroy discussed how when the Olympic Games were announced, it put him in an awkward position choosing between competing for Ireland or Great Britain.
"All of a sudden it put me in a position where I had to question who I am," McIlroy said. "Who am I? Where am I from? Where do my loyalties lie? Who am I going to play for? Who do I not want to piss off the most? I started to resent it. And I do. I resent the Olympic Games because of the position it put me in - that's my feeling towards it - and whether that's right or wrong, it's how I feel."
Following the Games, McIlroy recalled a text conversation he had with gold medal winner and Great Britain athlete Justin Rose. After wishing Rose congratulations on the first-place finish, Rose asked McIlroy on behalf of the other golfers in Rio if he felt like he had missed out?
"I said: 'Justin, if I had been on the podium (listening) to the Irish national anthem as that flag went up, or the British national anthem as that flag went up, I would have felt uncomfortable either way.' I don't know the words to either anthem; I don't feel a connection to either flag; I don't want it to be about flags; I've tried to stay away from that.
"Not everyone is (driven by) nationalism and patriotism and that's never been me, because I felt like I grew up in a place where I wasn't allowed to be. It was suppressed. ... So I'm a Catholic but I feel very much 'Northern Irish'. And I never wanted it to get political or about where I'm from, but that's what it turned into. And it just got to the point where it wasn't worth the hassle."
Among many other topics discussed in the interview, his relationship with Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus came up. And while McIlroy has been a self-proclaimed Tiger fanatic since he was a kid, he sees his lifestyle and goals more in line with the Golden Bear.
"Yeah, a lot of what (Jack) says resonates with me. Could you work harder? Yes. Could you spend 12 hours a day at the course? Absolutely. Would it make you any happier? No. And at the end of the day what do you want to be? There are certain goals I want to achieve: I want a career Grand Slam. I want to become the best ever European player, records-wise — Faldo has that at the minute — and maybe get to double-digit Majors. They are long-term goals, and of course I want to achieve them, but I don’t want to sacrifice my happiness at the same time.
"I always take what he has to say on board — I don’t take all of it, but I take most of it on board. He’s the most successful golfer of all time — 18 Major championships — but he also had the best balance between golf and family."
While comparing the lifestyles and friendships with Woods and Nicklaus, he had this interesting insight into Woods' life to share.
"I’m drawn to him, yeah. He’s an intriguing character, because you could spend two hours in his company and see four different sides to him. When he’s comfortable and he trusts you — and his trust (sensitivity) is way (higher) than mine — he’s great. He’s thoughtful. He’s smart. He reads. He can’t sleep so that’s all he does — he reads stuff and educates himself on everything. But he struggles to sleep, which I think is an effect of overtraining, so I tell him to calm down sometimes. He’d be texting me at four o’clock in the morning: ‘Up lifting. What are you doing?’"
If you've never read or listened to an in-depth interview with Rory, you'll quickly find they are wildly interesting. Throughout the rest of the interview he discusses his upbringing and family life, mentors within the Irish and European golfing communities and a look into the type of lifestyle he looks to create while playing golf. You can check out the entire interview here.