World number three golfer Jordan Spieth has pulled out of next month’s Olympics because of fears over the Zika virus. The American’s withdrawal deprives the Games in Rio of the sport’s top four players.
Spieth is the latest top golfer to announce he will not be taking part at the Olympics due to Zika following number one Jason Day, second-ranked Dustin Johnson and number four Rory McIlroy.
“It (Spieth’s withdrawal) was out of concern at health issues we have been talking about,” International Golf Federation (IGF) vice president Ty Votaw told reporters at the British Open at Royal Troon on Monday.
IGF president Peter Dawson said it was disappointing so many leading players had decided not to compete in Rio.
“There is no doubt the number of withdrawals hasn’t shed golf in the best light,” Dawson said. “But we do understand why these individual decisions have been taken.
Compelling golf competitions
“Personally, I think there has been something of an over-reaction to the Zika situation. But we remain confident we’ll stage two very exciting and compelling golf competitions in Rio.
“We have all of the top women playing and I think the count is eight out of the top 15 men are going to be playing so we’re going to have strong fields.”
Golf is returning to the Summer Games starting on Aug. 5 following an absence of 112 years.
Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar were also announced on Monday as the four players in the U.S. team for the Olympic golf competition.
Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that has been linked to birth defects and the World Health Organization says it is spreading rapidly in the Americas.