MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Graeme McDowell finds himself in the same position as Rory McIlroy, unsure of which country he'll play for when golf returns to the Olympics in 2016 at Rio de Janeiro.
McDowell, like McIlroy from Northern Ireland, is at the World Cup playing this week with Ireland's Shane Lowry on a team officially known as Ireland, as part of World Cup tradition.
But at the Olympics, Northern Ireland will be part of a combined team with England, Wales and Scotland competing as Britain. McIlroy, who has played for Ireland in the past, has already said he's not sure whether he'll play for Britain or Ireland.
"It has been a pretty touchy subject for us Northern Irish players over the last few years," McDowell said Wednesday. "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 ... you are going to end up upsetting someone from either side really."
McDowell said his allegiance to Ireland comes from playing for the country in the past "the golf bag with the Ireland logo on it ... I have always enjoyed being part of that."
He also realizes that by representing Ireland at the World Cup this week, it could force him to play for the country again at Rio. Generally, players who compete for one country must sit out a period of at least three years before being eligible to play for another.
"From my point of view, when the World Cup came back on the schedule and it was coming to Royal Melbourne, I knew that I wanted to be part of this team, McDowell said.
"Myself and Rory played twice for Ireland in this tournament 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.
"So I believe that me being here and representing Ireland will, you know, with the Olympic regulations, will mean that I am, I will have to play for Ireland when it comes to the Olympics in 2016."
"So if eligible, if fit enough ... part of me feels relieved to not have to make that decision. It takes care of another very sensitive problem that I, myself, and Rory in particular, have not enjoyed talking about."
CHAMPIONS RETURN: Francesco Molinari, playing for Italy with Matteo Manassero at the World Cup, is one of three players at this year's event at Royal Melbourne to have previously won the team title. American Matt Kuchar (with Gary Woodland in 2011) and Marcel Siem of Germany (with Bernhard Langer in 2006) are the others.
Kuchar is playing with Kevin Streelman this year and Siem with Maximilian Kieffer.
Molinari won the World Cup with his older brother, Edoardo, in 2009 at Shenzen, China.
"Obviously it is a new format, a new sponsor, basically almost a new event, so it is very different from when we played in China," Molinari said Wednesday. "Obviously I am looking forward to playing with Matteo and hopefully get a good result for Italy again."
It's Molinari's second trip to Royal Melbourne. He played the Heineken Classic in 2005, his second event as a pro.
PLAYERS CONSOLE DAY: The two Filipino players at the World Cup have met with Jason Day to console the Australian golfer over the loss of eight family members in the typhoon that has killed or left missing more than 5,000 people in the Philippines.
Angelo Que and Tony Lascuna did not have any relatives affected by the Nov. 8 typhoon. Day, whose mother migrated from the Philippines to Australia 30 years ago, was told that his grandmother and six child relatives were among the family members who died.
"I felt bad for him, but tragedy, I guess, it just brings everybody closer," Que said Wednesday.
Que said he hopes he and Lascana do well this week at Royal Melbourne, where they begin play on Thursday without the benefit of a practice round.
"It would be good for the Philippines if we play well," Que said. "It's nice to see people are right behind you. We're going to get through this with the help of everybody."
Day said Wednesday that "being half-Australian, half-Filipino, typically after something like that happens, you tend to bend towards that way."
"It's difficult. There's really nothing, no way to explain the (feelings) that go out towards the people that have been affected by this," Day added.
TOGETHER AGAIN: Chris Wood and Danny Willett will play for England at the World Cup, the first time as professionals.
"We played together as amateurs, we roomed together a little bit, we were in the same squads growing up so it is great for the English golfing as well to see us representing England as professionals," Wood said.
Wood has lost count of his recent big stretch of play — "I think this is my seventh or eighth event in eight or nine weeks, so we have all been on a long run so everyone is feeling a little bit tired."
"It has been great since July, I do not have an issue," he said. "So I have changed a lot of what I have been doing at home, the people I have been seeing so doing my own thing and it seems to be working."
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