Rory McIlroy says that telling Paul McGinley he was not going to compete at the Olympics was “one of the toughest phone calls I’ve had to make”.
McIlroy, who is due to marry fiancee Erica Stoll next year, opted out of representing Ireland in Rio after citing his concerns over the zika virus, a mosquito-borne virus which has been linked to defects in newborn babies and Guillain-Barre, a rare neurological syndrome that causes temporary paralysis in adults.
World number one Jason Day and US Open runner-up Shane Lowry also withdrew their names from consideration this week, while Graeme McDowell made himself unavailable as his wife is due to give birth to their second child during the Games. They joined a growing list of players which includes Australian pair Marc Leishman and Adam Scott, South Africa’s Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, and Charl Schwartzel, and Fiji’s Vijay Singh.
Speaking ahead of the French Open which begins at Le Golf National, McIlroy 27, said he did not want to let down Ireland’s golf captain McGinley, whom he spoke to before withdrawing.
“That was probably one of the toughest phone calls I’ve had to make, because we’ve talked about it so much,” said McIlroy. “We’ve done so much work, got accommodation, got security down there, got a chef in, got everything planned out. I got my jabs; I had two dead shoulders for about four days.
“But then at the end of the day, if I’m not 100% comfortable going down there, I just don’t want to put it at risk. There’s another Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020 and I’m more than happy to wait until then to get that Olympic experience.”
Asked why none of the top female golfers had withdrawn despite the risks posed by zika, McIlroy said: “I guess some of the top women golfers might not have plans to have children in the next six months to a year. You’ve got Shane (Lowry) who has just got married. Jason Day has a young family. I’m getting married next year.
“I think you can’t really compare apples to apples because we’re just in a different position than they are. I’d say 90% of the athletes going to the Olympics are single and have no plans to start a family in the near future, whereas there are some golfers that are in that position and in that scenario.”
World number two Jordan Spieth is “uncertain” about playing in Rio: “I’ve heard some stories on both sides about the security threats that Brazil and Rio have.”
In contrast, Germany’s Martin Kaymer is keen to compete in Rio and compared the Games to the Ryder Cup, only “a lot bigger”.
“The Ryder Cup is a lot of passion and a lot of heart, but if you play for your country and you see the people from your country getting prepared for the Olympic Games, for their moment, that they prepared for four years... that’s super inspiring,” he said.
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