Rory McIlroy: Olympic Furore Cannot Keep World Number 1 Down

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Author: David Archer

Tags: Golf

Published: 14:43 09/01/2013

McIlory is favourite to repeat his win of the Race To Dubai by the end of the year, with bookmaker William Hill offering odds of 6/4

After a spectacular year in which he won the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, and achieved the order of merit on both sides of the Atlantic, Rory McIlroy starts 2013 with much to look forward to. His relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki is still looking rosy and Nike is expected to announce a 10-year sponsorship deal, worth an estimated $200 million, next Wednesday.  And then, of course, there is the golf. 

If you are thinking of starting 2013 with a long-term bet to whet your interest in the year’s golfing events, note that McIlory is favourite to repeat his win of the Race To Dubai by the end of the year, with bookmaker William Hill offering odds of 6/4 that place him ahead of Luke Donald at 8/1 and Justin Rose at 11/1.

Unsurprisingly, given his superb form, he is also favourite to be winner of the PGA Tour Money List with odds of 3/1 from bookmaker BetVictor. Former World Number 1, Tiger Woods, is second favourite just behind McIlroy at odds of 4/1 with Dustin Johnson at 6/1, both odds available from StanJames. 

McIlroy also leads the betting for prestigious individual event, the US Masters (at 11/2 from BetVictor, with Woods at 8/1) but Tiger is currently marginally favoured to win the British Open (at 9/1 from BetFred, with McIlroy at 10/1).

The golden boy of golf, from Hollywood, County Down, Northern Ireland, has the temperament and talent to achieve all these enormously challenging goals and has energized the game of golf in the past few years. 

PGA Tour CEO Tim Fenchem firmly places McIlroy in the same league as Woods, saying “I always said of Tiger that when he first came on to the Tour in late 1996 his biggest contribution was going to be stuff we see 10, 15 and 20 years in the future.  We’ve seen the physicality and athleticism of the players now is so much better than it was.  As regards to Rory, he has the potential to do the same if he can be consistent enough.  As an individual, Rory stirs the imagination and the amazing thing about him is he’s like Tiger in a sense.  I certainly think Rory – given his personality, how well grounded he is and how good he is – can have long-term profound effects on the game”.

But Rory McIlroy does have one other profoundly difficult challenge ahead. In 2016, golf features in the Olympics for the first time, and the World Number 1 has an unenviable decision ahead of him. Should he represent Great Britain or Ireland?  McIlroy acknowledges the complexity of his dilemma, saying in a documentary to be screened by the BBC that “I just think, being from where we’re from, we’re placed in a very difficult position. I feel Northern Irish and obviously being from Northern Ireland you have a connection to Ireland and a connection to the UK. Play for one side or the other, or not play at all because I may upset too many people – those are the three options I’m considering very carefully”. After sparking a backlash last autumn when he said he felt “more British” it may well be that McIlory is tempted to take the third option as the least damaging and contentious.

Fellow golfer, Dubliner Padraig Harrington, acknowledges the complexity of the task ahead of McElroy, saying “I have massive sympathy as an Irishman and more so as a sportsman. No sportsman should have to make that decision. No one at age 23 should be asked to make that decision. And the reality is there have been people in politics for the last hundred years who have tried to negotiate that and haven’t been able to. It’s an extraordinarily difficult decision. There’s going to be no winner out of this one whatever happens”.

As a sportsman playing at the highest level, and with the responsibilities that go with it – to the public, fellow players, and sponsors – all ably fulfilled, Rory McIlroy has much to look forward to this year. The furore over his participation in the 2016 Olympics remains his only discernable dilemma and it is to be hoped that the increasing prominence of the issue, as his decision regarding the Olympics looms nearer, will not detract McIlroy from his fundamental goals of remaining World Number1 and winning more Majors in 2013.

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