Tuesday 28 March 2017

Double blow for Olympic golf team as McDowell withdraws

Graeme McDowell and his wife Kristin Stape are expecting their second child within weeks of the Rio Olympic Games. Photo: Getty
Graeme McDowell and his wife Kristin Stape are expecting their second child within weeks of the Rio Olympic Games. Photo: Getty

Ciara Treacy

Graeme McDowell has become the latest Irish golfer to rule himself out of competing in this summer’s Olympics in Rio

In a statement released on his Twitter account yesterday,  McDowell (36) confirmed that he would not make himself available for selection as his wife is expecting their second child.

This comes after an announcement by Rory McIlroy earlier this week that he was pulling out of the Irish team. He cited concerns over the Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects in babies.

McDowell didn’t reference the virus in his statement, but noted that his wife is due to give birth around the time of the competition.

“I woke [Wednesday] morning to the news that Rory McIlroy had withdrawn from the Irish Olympic Golf team, putting me in line for an automatic spot on the team,” McDowell said in his statement.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.

“Unfortunately I will therefore not be available to replace Rory on the team.”

The Portrush native said he has informed Paul McGinley, leader of the Irish golf team for the Olympics, and the Olympic Council of Ireland of his decision.

“I’ve always been a proud member of Ireland’s golf teams, from my amateur career through to playing in four World Cups of Golf for Ireland, and I wish the Irish Olympic Team the very best of luck in Rio,” he added.

Following the announcements by McDowell and McIlroy, three-time major winner Padraig Harrington is expected to represent Ireland this summer in Brazil alongside Shane Lowry.

In response to McDowell’s statement, the Olympic Council of Ireland said it “respects” the golfer’s decision.

“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,” the body said.

“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 Padraig Harrington who is now in contention for automatic selection for Rio 2016.”

Harrington said it would be a “huge honour” to represent his country in the games.

“Based on the current ranking points I am next in line for automatic selection,” he said.

“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.”

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