2016 Rio Olympics: World No. 2 Dustin Johnson becomes first American to pull out
The recent U.S. Open champion and one of the hottest golfers in the world becomes the latest to not play in the Olympics due to concerns over the Zika virus
The seemingly endless flow of top golf talent pulling out of the 2016 Rio Olympics has been well-documented here, but it was still a harsh blow for the United States and the sport in general when, late Friday, the No. 2-ranked golfer in the world announced that he would also be withdrawing his name for consideration from his country's national team.
Dustin Johnson, winner of back-to-back tournaments including his first career major in the 2016 U.S. Open, announced in a statement that he will not play for the United States in Brazil next month.
"As an athlete, I can think of no greater honor than representing the United States in the Olympic Games. However, after much careful consideration and discussion with both my family and my team, I have made the decision to withdraw from the 2016 Olympic Games," he explained.
"This was not an easy decision for me, but my concerns about the Zika Virus cannot be ignored. Paulina [Gretzky, Johnson's fiancée] and I plan to have more children in the near future, and I feel it would be irresponsible to put myself, her or our family at risk. I believe I am making the right decision for me and most importantly, my family. While I am sure some will be critical of my decision, my hope is that most will understand and support it. That being said, those who choose to compete in Rio certainly have my respect and best wishes for an unforgettable and safe experience."
If you think noting that golf at the Olympics being doomed is an exaggeration, well, think again.
Johnson has guaranteed that at least one-third of the top 20 golfers in the world will not play as he joins a list including Australia's Jason Day (No. 1) and Adam Scott (No. 8), Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy (No. 3), South Africa's Branden Grace (No. 11) and Louis Oosthuizen (No. 14), and Japan's Hideki Matsuyama (No. 17). There is also an expectation that America's Jordan Spieth (No. 3) will eventually withdraw from the Olympics as he recently hedged that he is seriously considering whether playing is worth the risk.
The aforementioned players are just some of those not scheduled to play; you can see the full list by clicking here. To this point, the most notable players who have announced with certainty that they will play are Sweden's Henrik Stenson (No. 6) and Spain's Sergio Garcia (No. 12).
Zika concerns have been the primary cause for golfers withdrawing, though a packed schedule including two majors in three weeks, the Ryder Cup (for some) and other major events also lessens the perceived importance of playing golf in the Olympics.
Golf returns to the Olympics in 2016 after not being played in the event since 1904. It has only been approved through 2020 and could easily get pulled following a lackluster showing in Rio, unless officials purely chalk it up to the unexpected Zika virus.
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