"Golfers dream of Green Jackets and Claret Jugs – not Olympics": Rory McIlroy defends Rio withdrawals

Frank Dalleres
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Rory McIlroy is one of several big names to have backed out this summer's Games, citing concerns over the Zika virus (Source: Getty)

World No4 Rory McIlroy has conceded that the insufficient allure of a gold medal played a part in his decision to withdraw from contention for this summer’s crisis-hit Olympics in Rio.

McIlroy cited concerns over the Zika virus when he announced last week that he would not, as previously indicated, be representing Ireland at the Games in Brazil in August.

The four-time Major winner reiterated on Wednesday that health fears prompted his change of heart, a position since adopted by compatriot Graeme McDowell and world No1 Jason Day too.

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But McIlroy also indicated that competing in the first Olympic golf event for more than a century did not hold the same as vying for the sport’s most iconic prizes in a crowded summer.

“I have four Olympic Games a year. That’s what I play for; that’s my pinnacle,” he said. “Most other athletes dream their whole lives of competing in the Olympics, winning gold. We [golfers] haven’t. We dream of winning Claret Jugs and Green Jackets.

“Unfortunately with where it is this year, people just aren’t comfortable going down there and putting themselves or their family at risk. I’d say if the Olympics were in most other countries in the world you wouldn’t have as many people not wanting to go and participate.”

Zika, which has been linked to birth defects, is one of many concerns for Games organisers. Rio’s state government has complained of a financial crisis, while police in the city have threatened to strike.