WORLD No4 Rory McIlroy has become the most high-profile golfer yet to pull out of contention for this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
McIlroy, 27, cited concerns over the Zika virus as he reason for his withdrawal just six weeks before he had been due to represent Ireland at the Games in Brazil.
The four-time Major winner hinted last month that he could miss golf’s return to the Olympics as he is considering starting a family, and confirmed that decision on Wednesday.
“After speaking with those closest to me, I’ve come to realise that my health and my family’s health comes before anything else,” he said.
“Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take. I trust the Irish people will understand my decision.”
McIlroy was one of the favourites for the gold medal and his withdrawal is another blow to the decision to reintegrate golf to the Olympic roster after a 122-year absence.
Former Masters winner Vijay Singh and Open runner-up Marc Leishman have already ruled themselves out of the Games due to concerns over Zika, which has been linked to birth defects.
Major winners Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen have also abandoned plans to play in Rio, blaming other reasons.
It is the latest setback to afflict preparations for the Olympics in Rio, where officials have admitted the city is in a “serious economic crisis”.