Sergio Garcia sticks his middle finger up at the Zika Virus

Sergio Garcia has made a career of bucking the trend and it was no different this morning when he announced he’ll be competing at the Olympics. Many of the world’s top players have withdrawn, citing their fears about the Zika Virus.

Henrik Stenson is another player who intends to show the mosquitos where to go.

The reported cases of Zika are falling by the week as Brazil enters its winter, perhaps offering some relief to athletes making the trip. Men’s golf has seen more Zika-related withdrawals than every other sport combined – basketball players have actually given “alternative” reasons.

With the chances of infection reducing in the build up, some athletes see this as proof that golf doesn’t belong at the Olympics. “Are they just not going because they just don’t want to go?” asked two-time Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington. “I just think, why is it just golf? Why is just the guys? Is it just a case that it doesn’t fit into their schedule? I don’t know I just scratched my head a little bit on that.”

One argument for having golf at the Olympics is to raise the profile of our sport, something that got binned the moment they chose a thoroughly uninspiring format. 60 players competing in a 72-hole individual stroke play tournament, yawn. Organisers should have been daring! How about mixed foursomes? How about matchplay generally?

golf at the Olympics
Barra da Tijuca, venue for the Olympics.

The Zika virus does pose a limited risk, but ultimately golfers have never been enthusiastic about going.

It looks like the US will be favourites in the men’s tournament. On Monday it became clear that Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler would all qualify if they wanted to go.

Below are the players who have already withdrawn (world ranking). Expect this list to get longer:

Australia:

Jason Day (1)

Marc Leishman (44)

Adam Scott (8) – cited scheduling

South Africa:

Branden Grace (10)

Louis Oosthuizen (14)

Charl Schwartzel (22)

Ireland:

Graeme McDowell (78)

Shane Lowry (26)

Rory McIlroy (4)

Other:

Hideki Matsuyama (17)

Vijay Singh (115)