McIlroy to withdraw from Olympics consideration over Zika fears

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy has withdrawn himself from consideration for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics over concerns relating to the Zika virus.

"After speaking with those closest to me, I've come to realize that my health and my family's health comes before anything else," Northern Irish McIlroy said in a statement Wednesday.

"Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take."

McIlroy had been set to represent Ireland at the Games.

"I trust the Irish people will understand my decision. The unwavering support I receive every time I compete in a golf tournament at home or abroad means the world to me."

McIlroy has recently slipped to fourth in the world after failing to make the cut at the US Open last week.

The Olympic Council of Ireland said in a statement it was "extremely disappointed not to be taking Rory with us to Rio.

"However, as we have always said, it is down to the individual and of course we respect his decision, which he has taken for personal reasons."

Zika, which is spread by mosquitoes and through sexual contact, only causes flu symptoms in most cases.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak in Latin American countries a global health emergency in February because the fast-spreading disease was also found to cause serious neurological disorders in unborn babies and adults.

However, a WHO emergency committee recently backed the Games to go ahead as there was "a very low risk of further international spread of Zika virus as a result of the Olympic and Paralympic Games," in contrast to other experts who called on the event to be moved or delayed.

Golf is returning to the August 5-21 Olympics in Rio for the first time since 1904 but has been plagued with controversy over the construction of the course and the field of participants.

Australian Adam Scott, South Africa's Louis Ooosthuizen and Vijay Singh of Fiji are some of the prominent names who have previously said they will not attend while Americans Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth have been reluctant to commit over health and security fears.

On the other hand players like two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson have said they "can't wait" to play in Brazil despite the event starting the week after the PGA Championship, the final major of the season and in the middle of a hectic tour schedule.

Both men's and women's golf at the Olympics consists of a four-round stroke-play competition with the men playing August 6-9 and the women August 12-15

Last update: Wed, 22/06/2016 - 14:54

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