Is Zika the real reason golfers are pulling out of the Olympics?


More than 20 male players have withdrawn their names from consideration for the Olympics in Rio, when golf returns to the Games for the first time since 1904.

With only one woman having pulled out so far, here's a look at some of the key questions surrounding the issue.

What is the problem?

Adam Scott practising ahead of the Open

Various reasons have been given for players opting not to compete in Rio, with Adam Scott admitting it was "not a priority" and Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge candidly admitting it was a "business decision" as he tries to keep his PGA Tour card. However, many players have cited concerns over Zika, a mosquito-borne virus which has been linked to defects in newborn babies and Guillain-Barre, a rare neurological syndrome which causes temporary paralysis in adults.

So why aren't the female golfers pulling out?

Lee-Anne Pace playing an LPGA event

Justin Rose put forward the theory that the top players had already postponed plans to have a family to concentrate on their careers, but the main reason appears to be that the top female professionals view the Olympics as a great opportunity to showcase the women's game and promote it around the world. Asked about "growing the game" on Tuesday, Rory McIlroy said: "I didn't get into golf to try and grow the game. I got into golf to win championships and win major championships."

Don't women play majors too?

Brittany Lang poses with her trophy on the 18th green after winning the US Women's Open

Five of them, one more than the men. But while the men's US Open, Open Championship and US PGA have been squeezed into a seven-week period before the start of the Olympics, the Women's British Open finishes more than two weeks before the action begins in Rio and the Evian Championship does not take place until the middle of September. Meanwhile, the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic will be staged during the men's Olympic event, although Jordan Spieth will not defend his title after pulling out of the Games.

So is Zika the real reason?

Rory McIlroy at an Open press conference

International Golf Federation president Peter Dawson feels there has been an "over-reaction" to Zika, but made sure to point out that he had no knowledge that players were using it "as an excuse". However, with McIlroy stating he will watch "the stuff that matters" rather than golf in Rio, it is clear an Olympic medal is not high on the list of priorities for some players. When Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington were helping present golf's Olympic bid in 2009, McIlroy was in his second full year as a professional and Jordan Spieth was finishing high school.