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World Cup persuades Rory McIlroy to go Irish for 2016 Olympics

World Cup persuades Rory McIlroy to go Irish for 2016 Olympics
Rory McIlroy has decided to play for Ireland, not Britain, at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. (Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

It was almost two years ago that Rory McIlroy sent shock waves through Ireland by saying he felt more British than Irish and might just represent Britain when golf makes its Olympic debut at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

Now, it seems, he has changed his mind.

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Speaking to reporters before the Irish Open, McIlroy announced that he plans to compete for Ireland. The reason?

Soccer.

"Obviously the World Cup's on in Brazil and it sort of gets you thinking," he said. "I've been thinking about it for a while."

Given the country's divided nature — with a border separating McIlroy's homeland of Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland to the south — it is not unusual for northern athletes to wear British colors at international competitions.

But the world's sixth-ranked golfer called the decision "a continuation" from his days as a junior and amateur player. McIlroy figured that his country's national championship offered a suitable stage for the announcement.

"I just thought it was the right thing to do," he said. "It was the right time to let everyone know."

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