Rio Olympics 2016: Danny Lee shares golf course with capybara

Danny Lee described the Olympic tournament as being equally important as a major. Photo / AP
Danny Lee described the Olympic tournament as being equally important as a major. Photo / AP

New Zealand No.1 golfer Danny Lee played alongside a massive rodent on the Olympic course today.

The 26-year-old was among golfers pictured next to a capybara in Rio.

The beast, related to a guinea pig and measures up to 130cm in length, surprised Lee as he played a practice round.

The animal, found throughout South America, is among other wildlife seen on or next to the Brazilian city's course, which is built on a nature reserve on the coast of western Rio.

Australian team captain Ian Baker-Finch told Fox Sports: "There's gators and owls and all various sorts of things going on, everyone's very impressed with the whole environment out there.

"The capybara ... that bloody thing is huge. Have you seen it? It's like a six-month old pig.

"It's quite a big animal and when they said it's a rodent, I couldn't believe it. It's like a cross between a wombat and a large dog.

"I think everyone enjoys the fact they've done such a god job with the course and it's in a natural environment."

Lee will be the 12th-ranked player in the field when the first golf tournament in Olympic history begins in Rio on Thursday.

European-based compatriot Ryan Fox is ranked 44th in a field weakened by the absence of numerous leading players, including six of the world's top-10.

Many of the absentees cited the risk of contracting the mosquito-borne Zika virus for not coming but Lee believes that was flawed reasoning.

"They were talking about how dangerous it is and the mosquitoes out here and they might get Zika," he said.

A capybara on the fairway. Photo / Getty Images
A capybara on the fairway. Photo / Getty Images

"I don't think that's true at all, it's very safe. I haven't seen one mosquito here. All I saw was one Capybara."

Lee says winning a medal for New Zealand - where he moved to from Korea as an eight-year-old - would be his proudest golfing moment.

"It's got to be right next to the majors. It's just as big," he said. "If you play well and happen to win a gold medal, it can change your life.

"I'm aware that I'm here as an athlete and an Olympian and that means everything to me."

Lee has rarely been home in recent years because of the demands of the US PGA Tour, so the Olympics gives him not only the chance to catch up with old friend Fox but to embrace some Kiwi culture in the athletes' village.

Some more wildlife here today! #Olympics #rio2016

A photo posted by berndwiesberger (@berndwiesberger) on

Fox, who is coming off a last-start win at the Northern Ireland Open on the European secondary tour, says he and Lee have struck the right balance of enjoying the Olympic environment while preparing for the tournament.

The 60-strong men's tournament is followed a week later by the women, featuring New Zealand world No.1 Lydia Ko.

Lee, meanwhile, said wind might be a big facor in the golf tournament due to the Olympic course.

Lee says the 7128-yard Rio de Janeiro Olympic Golf Course is short and could be a haven for birdies if players avoid the thick rough. However, it took on a different complexion when Lee and Fox played a practice round together.

The wind gusted up to 50km/h in the mid-afternoon, making some of the holes particularly taxing.

While there are some very short par-fours, with some measuring well under 400 yards, there are some hefty ones, including five in excess of 480 yards. Lee says the direction and strength of the wind could make the long holes close to unreachable in two.

"The wind is obviously going to change this course a lot," he said. "But it seems like I got an early tee time in the first two rounds so hopefully that helps."

Lee loved the pristine nature of the purpose-built course, noticing a lack of divots or pitch marks on the greens.


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