Zika Scares Top Golfer Jason Day Away From RioPhotos by Scott Halleran, Kevin C. Cox/Getty Olympics News
Australian golfer Jason Day, the no. 1 golfer in the world and 2015 PGA Champion, has decided to step away from the green during the Rio Olympics.
In a statement posted on his Twitter account, Day said that though the chances for a Zika infection are slight, competing “absolutely poses health risks to me and my family.”
“While it has always been a major goal to compete in the Olympics on behalf of my country, playing golf cannot take precedent over the safety of our family. I will not place them at risk,” reads Day’s statement.
— Jason Day (@JDayGolf) June 28, 2016
Golf is set to make its return as an Olympic sport after 112 years, with the last match during the games taking place in 1904 at the Glen Echo Country Club in St. Louis.
However, its comeback has been plagued with top players like Day dropping out due to Zika fears. Fourth-ranked Rory Mcilroy dropped out last week for fear of also endangering any of his future children with the virus.
Zika has scared off Graeme McDowell and Branden Grace while other players like Louis Oosthuizen and Adam Scott have cited family and a need for time off after busy summer schedules.
The Olympic golf course in Rio has also been plagued by controversy. Environmental critics, blasted the International Olympics Committee at a press conference last year for carving the course from a nature preserve.
In February, the Rio Olympic Committee claimed course construction actually encouraged a 167 percent increase in vegetation and introduced 145 new species into the area.
Others think golf has no place as an Olympic sport. Barry Maister, a New Zealand IOC member, dismissed the reinstated sport for all of its player trouble.
“Just getting in with your name, and then putting up some second or third rate players, is so far from the Olympic ideal or the expectation of the Olympic Movement,” said Maister to a New Zealand radio show. “Quite frankly, any sport that cannot deliver its best athletes, in my view, should not be there.”