Harrington: Olympics need McIlroy

Padraig Harrington has called on the Olympic council to intervene in the saga involving Rory McIlroy and Rio 2016.

Padraig Harrington has called on the Olympic council to intervene in the saga involving Rory McIlroy and Rio 2016, to ensure the sport's credibility at the Games.

Harrington said it was unfair to expect any sportsman to decide on whether he should represent Northern Ireland or Great Britain at the Olympics. As it stands McIlroy is technically entitled to choose between the two.

"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," said Harrington on Tuesday.

"The reality is that there have been people in politics for the last 100 years who have tried to negotiate that and haven't been able to. So, why would you ask a 23-year-old just because he's going to hit a little white golf ball," added Harrington.

The reaction sparked by McIlroy's initial response to a question posed on the matter, prompted the Northern Ireland golfer to consider skipping the Olympic Games altogether.

The reality is that, as it stands, the Olympics is not the pinnacle of the sport, which is why pundits had their reservations about it being included in the games in the first place.

The possible withdrawal of McIlroy from the Rio Olympics in four years would harm any form of credibility the sport hopes to achieve at the Games. Harrington was at pains to emphasise this.

"It's very unfortunate in the sense that it means a great deal to golf for him to play.

"It's a very big deal because golf (not part of the Games for over a century) is only on a trial period in the Olympics," said a concerned Harington.

In essence, it would be in the sport's best interest to have McIlroy play at the Olympic Games.

"I have massive sympathy as an Irishman and massive sympathy more so as a sportsman," added Harrington.

"We have two runs at it and we do, as golfers, have to perform and put our best foot forward, so it would be nice if the world number one was there supporting the event.

"It's an extraordinarily difficult decision. We need our best players to play in the Olympics to show that golf is serious about the Games.

"It would be nice if the Olympic council would say: 'Here we go, you can play in the Olympics,' or make the decision on a player's behalf."