Graeme McDowell follows Rory McIlroy in withdrawing from the Rio Olympics
Another high profile Irish golfer has ruled himself out of Olympic contention, with Graeme McDowell announcing that he won't be making himself available for selection this summer.
In a statement released on his Twitter account, McDowell said he won't be playing on the Irish Olympic golf team in place of Rory McIlroy, because his wife is due to give birth a couple of weeks after the games.
The Zika virus, which is currently rife in Brazil, can effect newborn babies and was cited as the reason for McIlroy's withdrawal from the games.
"I woke yesterday morning to the news that Rory McIlroy had withdrawn from the Irish Olympic Golf team, putting me in line for an automatic spot on the team," McDowell said in his statement.
"As many within golf will know my wife Kristin is pregnant and is due to have our second child just a couple of weeks after the Olympic Golf competition concludes. I made the decision many months ago, before I was on the team, that I would not play or travel outside the US, where I and my family live, in the weeks running up to the birth.
My statement on my Olympic Golf participation in Rio. pic.twitter.com/y7ufEXXWIl— Graeme McDowell (@Graeme_McDowell) June 23, 2016
"Unfortunately I will therefore not be available to replace Rory on the team. I have informed Paul McGinley and the Olympic Council of Ireland of my decision."
Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy had been set to represent Ireland at the games, under the management of Ryder Cup-winning captain McGinley, but the four-time Major-winner yesterday dropped the bombshell that he was no longer going to compete, due to fears over the Zika virus.
He also released a statement explaining his withdrawal.
"After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for this summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero.
"After speaking with those closest to me, I've come to realize that my health and my family's health comes before anything else. Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take.
"I trust the Irish people will understand my decision. The unwavering support I receive every time I compete in a golf tournament at home or abroad means the world to me.
"I will continue to endeavor to make my fans and fans of golf proud with my play on the course and my actions off it."
With the absence of both McIlroy and McDowell, Padraig Harrington is set to represent Ireland this summer alongside Lowry.
The OCI have expressed their regret at McDowell's decision.
"The Olympic Council of Ireland respects the decision taken by Graeme McDowell to make himself unavailable for consideration for the Irish Olympic Golf Team. It is important to re-emphasise that Graeme’s decision was taken for personal reasons as Rio 2016 is a matter of weeks before the birth of his, and his wife Kristin Stape’s, second child.
"This now presents a significant opportunity for another talented Irish golfer to represent his country and participate in golf’s historic return to the Olympic Games after a 112-year absence.
"In particular, we are very fortunate to have a global star in Pádraig Harrington who is now in contention for automatic selection for Rio 2016. Three time major champion Harrington commented:
“Based on the current ranking points I am next in line for automatic selection to the Irish Olympic Team for Rio 2016. I will work very hard over the next few weeks to achieve this selection as it would be a huge honour for me to represent Ireland at the Olympic Games, having played an active role in golf’s bid to be re-included in the Olympic Games programme.”"
The Irish Golf Team will be announced in mid-July.