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McDowell sympathizes with McIlroy, remains on Olympic fence

Graeme McDowell at the Arnold Palmer Invitational
Getty Images

If anyone understands the plight of Rory McIlroy regarding an allegiance for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, it's fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell.

'I felt kind of bad for Rory,' the 2010 U.S. Open champion said in an interview with the Irish Golf Desk. 'We are in the unfortunate position in Northern Ireland where we have one foot on each team.'

In an interview earlier this month, McIlroy explained that he 'felt more British than Irish' regarding his potential allegiance for 2016. In an open letter posted on Twitter, McIlroy later backed off from that sentiment, stating, 'I have absolutely not made a decision regarding my participation in the next Olympics.'

As natives of Northern Ireland, players like McIlroy and McDowell would be eligible to play for either Ireland or Great Britain in Rio, when golf is re-introduced to the Olympics.

McDowell sympathized with McIlroy, pointing out that the scrutiny regarding his decision may be premature. 'Rory is very much in the spotlight and has been coerced into making some kind of decision,' said McDowell, 'which let's be honest, is four years down the road.'

A runner-up earlier this year at the U.S. Open, McDowell continued to keep his own plans for 2016 a mystery. 'What's my allegiance? I really don't have one,' he explained. 'I sit on the fence because unfortunately that is where I have to sit.'

Although still subject to change, the current Olympic format would limit the number of participants each country could send to Rio - meaning if McIlroy or McDowell play for Great Britain, it may come at the expense of other British golfers like Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose or Ian Poulter.