TROON, United Kingdom: Top male golfers have done the image of their sport a disservice in withdrawing en masse from the Olympics over the Zika virus, federation chief Peter Dawson said on Monday (Tuesday in Manila).
American two-time major winner Jordan Spieth became the latest star to withdraw on Monday — meaning the top four in the world would not be in Rio — as the final list of 60 was unveiled by Dawson at Royal Troon, hosts to this week’s British Open.
“Speaking collectively there is no doubt that the number of withdrawals hasn’t shed golf in the best light,” said Dawson, International Golf Federation (IGF) president.
In his previous position as R&A chief executive Dawson had lobbied long and successfully for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to restore golf to the Games after a 112-year absence.
“But we do understand why these individual decisions have been made,” he said.
“Personally, I think there’s been something of an overreaction to the Zika situation, but that’s for individuals to determine, and there’s certainly a great deal of concern about this issue inside the game of golf, no doubt about that.”
Dawson revealed Spieth had phoned Ty Votaw, IGF vice-president to advise the organisers of golf’s return to the Olympics that he would not be travelling to Brazil.
“He (Spieth) called up earlier today just before this press conference, and he’s going to be addressing his reasons for choosing not to participate tomorrow,” said Dawson.
“But in the phone call, it was out of concern for the health issues that we’ve been talking about.
“I should say now that I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to discuss individual cases, especially as they’re generally discussions have been taken on health issues.”
IGF executive director Anthony Scanlon said the withdrawal of 17 of the game’s leading male players — including world top four Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Spieth and Rory McIlroy — could impact on golf becoming a permanent fixture at the Olympics post the 2020 Games in Tokyo.