Watch Gary Player on Olympic controversy: 'I played golf when they wanted to kill me'

Gary Player appeared to aim a thinly-veiled attack on Rory McIlroy on Sunday, by saying players do have a responsibility to grow the game of golf.

McIlroy is one of a host of high profile players who will not compete in the 2016 Rio Games next month, with him personally attracting criticism for implying that the sport had no place in the Olympics (see below).

Like many of his peers, he has officially cited the threat of the Zika virus as his reason for not competing, a stance Player was quick to criticise.

"I played golf when they wanted to kill me for two years almost every day of my life, I had policemen sleeping in my house every night, sometimes 40 people walking around on a golf course,” he said. I played in malaria countries where malaria kills way more people than Zika even thinks about. I played in yellow fever, war zones and my goodness me, here I am hearing players that it interferes with their schedule."

The South African, who won nine Majors over the course of his career, was also clear that players have a certain responsibility to help grow the game.

"We needed being included into the Olympic Games since 1904, we needed and we had this great opportunity to promote the game, particularly in smaller countries which benefit both the game and manufacturers et cetera, et cetera. So I think we should try and think positive and hope that the IOC receives us in the light that they did with tennis and continue to let the games go on."

Player also believes that Olympic golf should be played by amateurs - something that former Ryder Cup captain and five-time Open Championship winner Tom Watson agrees with.

"They have their own tours, they have their own places to go, but the amateurs trying to get to be the best, I agree with Gary (Player) in that respect, it should be an amateur event in the Olympics, amateurs from around the world play in it."

The good news for golf in the Olympics is that the winners of the two most recent Majors - Danny Willett and Henrik Stenson - will both be in Rio.

Watch Gary Player on Olympic controversy: 'I played golf when they wanted to kill me'

Willett was selected alongside Justin Rose for Team GB.

The 2016 Masters champion was reluctant to criticise his peers who have chosen not to appear, but was still optimistic about the quality of competition.

"There are risks involved and people's opinions are their own and their decisions are their own. But yeah it is a shame, but I don't think it should take away from the fact that it is still going to be a fantastic Olympic Games and there is still a fantastic field going down to Rio to play, both in men's and women's. For all the negatives that there are there, you are still going to get one of the strongest fields of the year."

Branden Grace, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson are among those also to have withdrawn from the Olympics.

The women's line-up remains impressively healthy, despite Zika fears, with South Africa's Lee-Anne Pace the only player so far to withdraw for that reason.

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