2016 Rio Olympics: Top star Jordan Spieth explains withdrawl from U.S. team

Jordan Spieth started hedging a few weeks ago at the U.S. Open about whether he was going to play in the Olympics. On Monday, it was revealed that he has withdrawn his name and will not be on the U.S. team. He cited "health issues" and on Tuesday clarified that this doesn't necessarily mean solely the Zika virus.

With Rickie Fowler's commitment on Sunday, that leaves the U.S. with Fowler, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar. Reed took Dustin Johnson's slot when Johnson pulled out on Friday and Kuchar will take Spieth's spot. If any other U.S. players pull out, the U.S. will simply be left with just three players for Rio.

The Spieth announcement was made by International Golf Federation President Peter Dawson as he posted the final teams (see below). Spieth said on Tuesday this "was probably the hardest decision I've had to make in my life."

"This was harder than trying to decide what university to go to," Spieth added in his press conference in Scotland ahead of the 2016 British Open. "I feel that many, if not all of you, would have made the same decision I made if you were in my shoes. Whether you believe it or not, so be it. This is just something that was very, very challenging for me. I very much struggled with it."

Spieth said Fowler, who is staying at the same house as him this week, texted him after his decision.

"It hurts," Dawson said, stating the obvious. It's more than that though. Spieth, along with Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, might have just killed golf in future Olympics. Remember, there will be a vote after the Rio games about whether golf should be kept beyond Tokyo in 2020. This is not what the IGF thought would happen either.


Earlier this year, its executive director, Antony Scanlon, noted that players would almost definitely be in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, even though the 2016 Olympics is right after two majors and just before the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

"They are going to be there [in Rio de Janeiro]," Scanlon told ESPN. "Any athlete who qualifies will be there. They see the significance of this event to golf and for the opportunity this presents them. There are benefits to be gained from participation and winning a medal. For a starter, there is a television audience of 3.6 billion. They don't normally get that every weekend!"

Or not.

The top four players in the world (Day, Johnson, Spieth and McIlroy) will not be in Rio which is probably a dagger in any future hope anyone had at keeping this sport around. I don't begrudge these players for not going of course, but let's not act like this is not what is happening. When a vote is tallied after Rio, it will not escape those holding ballots that golf is the one sport where the most players are backing out. Do you see a host of swimmers or runners not going? Even basketball players? No.

There will always be some extracurricular distraction from the games themselves. Sometimes, it's a health threat like Zika. Other times, it will be a terrorist threat or worse. There will always be plenty of reasons for golfers to not attend the Olympics, and because they don't fundamentally value a gold medal, many will take advantage of having an out.

So golf in the Olympics will probably be dead after Rio and Tokyo. Hope you guys enjoyed it while it lasted. Thankfully for the Olympics, Spieth noted on Tuesday that he will not compete in the John Deere Classic in the U.S., which is the same week as the Olympic games.

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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