Though golf is set to tee off on Olympic green for the first time in over century in a few weeks, many of the world’s top players won’t be there to participate.
In the last several months, 20 of the world’s top golfers have stated they will not travel to Rio. Many have cited either fears of the Zika virus or exhaustion due to the Games clash with professional golf’s packed summer schedule.
According to the Associated Press (AP), Carlos Nuzman, the President of the Rio Organizing Committee, claims the virus is not what has driven top players away. “They tried to blame Zika, but the media have shown that they are not coming because there’s no prize money,” said Nuzman.
Nuzman added that golfers seem to have no problem playing in other Zika affected areas. “Zika is much worse in Florida than in Brazil, and golfers are playing in Florida,” he said.
(The number of confirmed cases in the Sunshine State recently reached the 300 mark last week, while Brazil’s Ministry of Health recorded 702 new cases in Rio in May, leading researchers to say that Zika was no longer a local problem.
Nuzman could be referring to the comments top golfer Rory McIlory made during Royal Troon last week. McIlroy initially turned down Rio for fear of Zika, but said he didn’t feel like he was letting the sport down. “I didn’t get into golf to try and grow the game. I got into golf to win championships and win major championships,” he said.
While other top male golfers like Team USA member Bubba Watson and Great Britain’s Danny Willett are confirmed for Rio and can look forward to Japan in 2020, the International Olympics Committee is set to evaluate the sport’s continued Olympic future.