Thursday 18 January 2018

Padraig Harrington defends Lowry over Rio opt-out as Katie Taylor sticks boot in


Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington
Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington
Shane Lowry hits his tee shot on the 2nd hole during the final round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Oakmont Country Club. Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Lowry in jovial mood before a practice round at Firestone Country Club South Course in Akron, Ohio, yesterday ahead of the defence of his WGC-Bridgestone Invitational title. Picture credit: Sam Greenwood / Getty Images
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Padraig Harrington launched a staunch defence of Shane Lowry, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and the other top golfers who have opted out of the Olympic Games due to fears over the Zika virus.

World No 1 Jason Day also confirmed yesterday that he will not be taking part in the Rio Games, citing "health risks".

Harrington, who is preparing for the French Open at Le Golf National in Paris, technically has still to be 'selected' for the Games by the closing date for entries on July 11, but he is ready to go to Rio.

His playing partner is most likely to be Web.Com Tour player Seamus Power from Waterford, who has also told Irish golf team manager Paul McGinley that he would tee it up in Brazil. Greystones' Paul Dunne also has a chance of making the cut for the second Irish place.

As the criticism of the golfers' withdrawal increased yesterday - with London 2012 gold medallist Katie Taylor among those joining the chorus - Harrington defended their decision.

"I think it could have been expected. He's just married and the possibility of starting a family means there are more things to be taken into account rather than the individual in this case. He has to put his family first," said the three-time Major champion.

London 2012 gold medallist Katie Taylor is among those to criticise the decision of the golfers. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
London 2012 gold medallist Katie Taylor is among those to criticise the decision of the golfers. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

"I know there has been a lot of criticism, but most of the golfers are married either with families, or with families on the way, whereas 99pc of the athletes going to the Games will be single."

After Day confirmed his withdrawal, Taylor hit out at the growing trend among golf's elite.

"Another one bites the dust. I wonder what excuse the golfers would of (sic) made if there was no virus," she posted on Twitter.

"More chance of him getting killed by a spider in Australia than getting infected by the Zika virus!"

Day is the seventh Major champion to rule himself out of consideration, along with Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Vijay Singh, McIlroy and McDowell.

Harrington, however, believes that over time, the Olympics will assume greater importance for golfers.

"The Olympics comes every four years for an athlete. For them, it's the be-all and end-all, whereas we'll have had 16 Majors in the time between the last Games and this one," he explained.

"You've also got to understand, a lot of athletes just get one go at the Olympics, but you've got to look at the age profile of the golfers.

"Shane will have another chance in four years' time. It's not like it's a once in a lifetime opportunity.

"The reality is that nearly all these golfers that are pulling out are married. When you're married, there is more than just one person to be considered."

Harrington (44) is staying in the same hotel in Versailles which was occupied by the Republic of Ireland team for their Euro 2016 adventure.

"I'd rather have had to look for another hotel and still have them here, but that's sport," said Harrington.

Irish Independent

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