TROON, Scotland (AP) — The Latest on the British Open (all times local):
Jordan Spieth calls his withdrawal from the Olympics “probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life.”
Spieth says he’s a huge supporter of Olympic golf and playing for the United States. But he says health concerns over the Zika virus led him to sit out the sport’s return to the games for the first time since 1904.
The four top players in the world rankings are all skipping the Rio de Janeiro Games. Spieth was the last of the Big Four to make his decision, announcing it Monday after Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy withdrew from Olympic consideration.
Spieth had not commented on his decision until Tuesday’s scheduled news conference ahead of the British Open. He says he “very much struggled” with whether to play in Rio, going “back and forth” before finally making up his mind. He also says it will be “very difficult” to watch the opening ceremony on television and see other golfers competing for a gold medal.
Spieth goes on to say that playing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is now one of his top priorities.
Masters champion Danny Willett says he’s “willing to take that little bit of risk” and play at the Olympics because the likelihood of contracting the Zika virus is lessening every day.
Speaking a day after Jordan Spieth became the latest high-profile golfer to withdraw from the Rio de Janeiro Games, Willett says it’s been a “tough decision” but that “you don’t know how many times you will be in the Olympics, if it will be in the Olympics again.”
Golf will be played at the 2020 Tokyo Games but its future is uncertain after that.
Willett says concerns over Zika “could be a non-event” and that a person has more chance of contracting malaria in South Africa than contracting Zika in Rio. Willett says “if there’s an Olympic Games down in Johannesburg, would guys pull out because of malaria? I don’t really know, you know?”
The International Olympic Committee says it “respects” the decision by several top golfers to skip the Rio de Janeiro Games because of the Zika virus.
But the IOC and its president, Thomas Bach, are also pointing to the guidelines from the World Health Organization, which has not recommended any restrictions on travel to Rio. Also, the IOC says there is much less threat of contracting mosquito-borne viruses during the winter months in South America.
Bach told German news agencies that “these are individual decisions taken by the players that stand in contrast to the WHO recommendations.” He also says “it is obvious that this does not help the attractiveness of the golf competition.”
Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth have all decided to sit out golf’s return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.
The British Open has been overshadowed by the news of another big-name withdrawal from the Olympics.
Two-time major champion Jordan Spieth dropped out on Monday, just before the deadline to set the 60-man field. Like others before him, he had cited concerns over the Zika virus.
Spieth is expected to go into more detail during a media availability Tuesday.
His decision means the top four in the world rankings are skipping the Rio de Janeiro Games. Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy had already announced they won’t take part in golf’s return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.
Masters champion Danny Willett will be going for the gold. He says the mosquito-borne virus appears to be less of a threat during the South American winter.