Jason Day and Shane Lowry join ranks of golfers withdrawing from Olympics
Published 28/06/2016 | 15:56
World number one Jason Day and Ireland's Shane Lowry are the latest high-profile golfers to pull out of this summer's Rio Olympics because of concerns over the Zika virus.
Both cited worries over health risks to their families as a reason for the decision, echoing the comments of four-time major winner Rory McIlroy who also withdrew last week.
Lowry was scheduled to partner McIlroy at the event but then found himself teamed with three-time major winner Padraig Harrington.
His decision to withdraw now means Harrington will be the senior partner with Seamus Power, the next highest-ranked Irish player whose possible qualification will be determined on July 11.
"It is with deep regret I announce that I will not be competing in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games this coming August in Rio de Janeiro," Day said in a statement.
"The reason for my decision is my concerns about the possible transmission of the Zika virus and the potential risks that it may present to my wife's future pregnancies and to future members of our family.
"I have always placed my family in front of everything else in my life. Medical experts have confirmed that while perhaps slight, a decision to compete in Rio absolutely comes with health risks to me and to my family.
"My wife Ellie and I have been blessed with two wonderful and healthy children and our plan is to have more.
"While it has always been a major goal to compete in the Olympics on behalf of my country, playing golf cannot take precedent over the safety of our family.
"I will not place them at risk. I hope all golf and Olympics fans respect and understand my position."
Among the other golfers not going to Rio de Janeiro in August because of Zika fears are Day's fellow Australian Marc Leishman, South African trio Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, and Vijay Singh.
World number eight Adam Scott, and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell have declined to go for other reasons.
Lowry, however, was concerned about medical issues.
"It is with a heavy heart that I have made the decision over the past couple of days to withdraw from the upcoming Olympic Games this August," he said in a statement.
"Wendy and I have just recently been married and we hope to be lucky enough to have a family in the near future.
"Based on these circumstances, I have received firm medical advice that I should not travel to Rio this summer."
The Olympic Council of Ireland expressed regret and understanding at the decision.
"The OCI is disappointed to hear of the news that Shane Lowry is withdrawing from Rio 2016 due to his concerns over the Zika virus," said a statement.
"However, as we have always said, it is down to the individual and of course we respect Shane's decision, which he has taken for personal reasons.
"The OCI already note that we are very fortunate to have three-time major champion Padraig Harrington who now looks likely to gain automatic qualification.
"Seamus Power is currently the next highest ranked Irish player and his possible qualification will be determined on the July 11."
Masters Champion Danny Willett, though, looks set to play in Rio.
"The only reason you wouldn't go would be because of concerns about Zika," he said at a press conference.
"I've spoken to (my wife) Nicola about it a lot, and we have concerns, but I'm still down for it and I still want to play. The threat is lowering every week. It's come down by half in the last two months."
Willett said he had spoken to Justin Rose and he also plans to compete.
"I've spoken to Rosey, and Fooch (Mark Fulcher), his caddie, and they are still down to play, which is great for British golf. Hopefully we can have a third British guy come in if some of the contenders can play well over the next couple of weeks," he added.