Former world number one golfer Vijay Singh says he will skip this summer’s Rio Olympics, citing the Zika virus as the reason.
The Fijian told the Golf Channel he would instead work on his game on the PGA Tour.
“I would like to play the Olympics, but the Zika virus, you know...” Singh said. “I feel bad, I wanted to play and finally decided against it. It’s in the middle of the Tour over here and I’m trying to figure out my game.”
Zika, transmitted by mosquitoes, is spreading rapidly in the Americas, according to the World Health Organization.
Much about the virus remains unknown, including whether it actually causes microcephaly in babies. Recent health ministry figures put the number of confirmed and suspected cases of microcephaly in Brazil associated Zika at about 5,200.
Several US athletes said in March they had concerns about the virus, and would monitor the situation ahead of the Games.
Meanwhile tournament host Sergio Garcia is delighted to be back at Real Club Valderrama for this year’s Open de Espana, Hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation.
The venue has been a happy hunting ground for world number 16 Garcia, who won the last European Tour event to be hosted there - the 2011 Andalucia Valderrama Masters - and names the course as his favourite in the world.
Garcia, who won this event in 2002, is excited to be hosting the Open de Espana for the first time.
He said: “It’s amazing, there’s nothing like it. To be able to be the host of the Spanish Open, one of the oldest opens we have on the European Tour, and also here at Valderrama - it’s so iconic - I love it.
“It’s really a great experience and I’m sure it will be a great tournament.
“When you come back to somewhere where you have done well, and feel comfortable and you know what you’re doing, it always helps so hopefully there will more of that this week.”
Garcia is one of several top players in a field that includes his Ryder Cup team-mates Martin Kaymer and Thomas Bjorn, in-form Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello and Soren Kjeldsen, who arrives at Real Club Valderrama fresh from finishing in a share of seventh at last week’s Masters.
But the 36-year-old is not concerned about his time management as he prepares to juggle hosting and playing duties. “You have to do a couple of things here and there, but once the week starts, the focus changes a bit - we won’t be so busy so we are excited,” Garcia added.
Two-time major champion Kaymer had been due to head to the RBC Heritage in America this week, but changed his plans due to the lure of playing at Valderrama.
Kaymer said: “I was supposed to play Hilton Head the week after the Masters but then I heard that this tournament was coming to Valderrama, so I thought ‘I have to come here’. It is a very nice golf course.
“It is so about ball striking here. You need to hit fairways and small greens. You have to be very strategic and I really enjoy that. I’ve done well here in the past too so those are all good reasons to come back.
“It is a golf course you would like to win on during your career. Valderrama, Wentworth, St Andrews. These are the core of the European Tour, so I wanted to give it another go.”
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