Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Zika at Rio: Male golfers opt out, woman golfers opt in

Jason Day of Australia speaks to the media regarding his withdrawal from the Olympic games in Brazil during a press conference. Photo / Getty Images.
Jason Day of Australia speaks to the media regarding his withdrawal from the Olympic games in Brazil during a press conference. Photo / Getty Images.

World No 1 Jason Day has joined the list of male golfers withdrawing from the Olympics while none of their female counterparts have announced they won't play in Rio.

Concerns about the Zika virus and its effects on women's fertility have been a focus for the athletes and staff as the games approach and the men's tournament starts on August 11 and the women a week later.

So far no women have withdrawn however the list of males bypassing the Olympics is growing.

Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace, Marc Leishman, Adam Scott, Graeme MacDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Tim Wilkinson, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ernie Els have all pulled out. Some have pinpointed the Zika virus, others family reasons and other commitments.

Female No 1 Lydia Ko remains staunch in her aim to do well at the US Open next week before she targets gold at Rio.

"It's very unfortunate to hear about the Zika virus," Ko said. "But to me, out of the girls that I've talked to, on our tour, I think everyone is super excited to go there.

"I think the Olympics is a way of growing the game. As a fan of sports myself, I've turned on the TV and started learning about these different sports and different athletes. I think that's how people out of the golfing industry will learn more about us, the LPGA players and PGA players.

"The best experts in the world are handling the situation of the Zika and if it was - I feel like if it was definitely too dangerous, they wouldn't get us going there, but, you know, I think we have to trust the experts that they are handling the situation, and for us to concentrate on the events we have coming up and be excited for the Olympics.

"It's not every week, not every year you get to do this, to represent your country, amongst the world's best athletes in other sports, so I'm super excited about it, and there are just so many positives from Rio that golf can take."

According to a recent Sports Illustrated survey, 40 per cent of LPGA Tour players said they would prefer to win a gold medal in Rio than any of this year's four major golf championships.

In contrast, 29 per cent of PGA Tour players expressed a preference for winning gold over the season's final major, the PGA Championship, and that percentage would likely have been lower if the Masters, US Open and British Open had factored in.

Surprisingly, 62 per cent of PGA Tour players rated the Players Championship, which is not a major, above Olympic success.

American Matt Kuchar, a seven-times winner on the PGA Tour who is ranked 17th in the world, summed up the ambivalence of his peers over golf's return to the Olympics.

"Most of the Olympic sports have their 'big event' once every four years with the World Cups and world championships that go on," Kuchar said.

"In the golf world, we have our four majors ... then every other week there is a big event going on with major attention. The fact that we have an event every week, the Olympics will be another event."

- Additional reporting AAP

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