(ATR) Jordan Spieth is the latest star golfer to opt out of the Rio Olympic tournament.
International Golf Federation vice president Ty Votaw made the announcement as a news conference at Royal Troon, where the 145th Open Championships begins on Thursday.
Votaw said that Spieth called him shortly before the IGF press conference to advise of his decision. The 22-year-old Texas golfer said he will address his decision further at his regularly scheduled press conference on Tuesday at noon.
"In the phone call, he said it was out of concern for the health issues that we’ve been talking about," Votaw said.
Spieth’s withdrawal means that none of the world’s top-four ranked golfers will play at golf’s return to the Games after 112 years. Spieth, who won the Masters and U.S. Open last season before losing in a playoff at the British Open, joins Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, all of whom have withdrawn citing concerns over the Zika virus.
Thirteen top ranked players have now pulled out of the Rio tournament on the newly completed Reserva da Marapendi course.
IGF president Peter Dawson dismissed speculation that players were using the Zika virus, which the World Health Organization said is a lesser threat in August during Rio’s winter, as an excuse for other reasons, potentially golf’s tight schedule or lack of prize money at the Games.
"I have no knowledge that players and their families are using the Zika virus as an excuse not to come, but there has been concern here," Dawson said.
"We have to stress that this is winter time and the risk is considerably diminished, but the risk is there and that’s for the players to assess," said IGF executive director Antony Scanlon.
Over the past 18 months, there has been no shortage of information about Zika and at Akron there was a meeting with the four U.S. players," Scanlon said.
Dawson added: "I take great pride that we haven’t lost a greens keeper to Zika there."
The Olympic golf qualification period ended as of Monday, with the 60 men and 60 women finalized for Rio, barring any more withdrawals.
Here at Royal Troon, located southwest of Glasgow, the world’s top players will compete for the prestigious Claret Jug as the 145th Open Championship begins on Thursday. It marks the eighth time that golf’s oldest major tournament has been played at the venerable Scottish links course, the first being in 1923.
American golfers have won the last six times it has been played here. At the last tournament at Troon in 2004, unheralded American Todd Hamilton beat South Africa’s Ernie Els in a dramatic four-hole playoff.
Golf legends who have triumphed at Troon, with its gusting winds, blind shots and plethora of bunkers include Arnold Palmer who won at Troon in 1963, while five-time British Open champion Tom Watson was victorious in 1982.
Around the Rings onsite coverage of the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon is sponsored exclusively by EventScotland, working to make Scotland the Perfect Stage for Events.
Written by Brian Pinelli in Ayrshire, Scotland
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