This is a chain reaction that shows no sign of slowing down. Rory McIlroy announced yesterday that he is no longer available for the Olympics . The 27-year-old cited concerns about the Zika Virus, joining Mark Leishman and Vijay Singh who have also withdrawn.
The Northern Irishman, who played all his amateur golf under the “all-Ireland” banner, made the decision not to represent Britain last year. Today we heard from Graeme Mcdowell, who announced he will not be making the trip either. The former U.S. Open champion said he would not compete because his wife is due to give birth.
“I made the decision many months ago, before I was on the team, that I would not travel,” he said. “I have always been a proud member of Ireland’s golf teams, from my amateur career through to playing in four World Cups of Golf and I wish the Irish Olympic team the very best of luck in Rio,” he added.
This is a massive blow for golf – the latest sport to be included in the Olympics after a 112-year absence. Few players have shown any real enthusiasm, with Jason Day expected to be the next big player to withdraw.
Pregnant women are at particular risk and those visiting the county are advised to practice safe sex for at least 8 weeks after they return home. Some doctors acknowledge the implications but suggest the risks have been exaggerated. Nevertheless, you can understand the concern for golfers who already view the Olympics as an irrelevance.
What will Ireland’s team look like now?
Shane Lowry is a worthy replacement but I can’t see him wanting to play? He’s 29-years-old and recently married. Will he and his wife wan’t to risk their health for an irrelevant medal? Probably not. This leaves the multi-major champion Padraig Harrington. He recently dropped to 167th in the world and would have little support from the country’s next best offerings.
The list doesn’t look good: Seamus Power (281st), Paul Dunne (389th), Ruaidhri McGee (496th). It’s a shame for Ireland because they had a very good chance of bringing something home. I guess it’s fortunate (or unfortunate) that nobody seems to care.