Golfers have ‘over-reacted’ to Zika virus – IGF president
Peter Dawson, president of the International Golf Federation, has accused golfers of ‘over-reacting’ to concerns about the Zika virus during the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio.
On Monday, Jordan Spieth joined Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Rory McIIroy in withdrawing from the sport’s reintroduction into the Olympics next month.
However, Dawson does believe the world’s top four ranked players are using the virus as an excuse to disguise other reasons for not wanting to play.
“Speaking collectively though, there is no doubt that the number of withdrawals hasn’t shed golf in the best light. Hasn’t shown golf in the best light, and we have to accept that. But we do understand why these individual decisions have been taken.
“Personally, I think there’s been something of an overreaction to the Zika situation, but that’s for individuals to determine, and there’s certainly a great deal of concern about this issue inside the game of golf, no doubt about that.We have certainly faced a number of challenges, as I’ve said along the road, this is another one.
“But we remain confident that we’ll stage two very exciting and compelling golf competitions in Rio. We have all of the top women playing, and I think the count is 8 out of the top 15 men are going to be playing. So we’re going to have strong fields, and the players are going to have a wonderful experience,” the president said.
Vice President Ty Votaw cited the example of tennis’ growth as an Olympic sport since its re-introduction in 1988 and feels golf needs time to ensure it follows the same path.
The Open Championships at Royal Troon starts this week with Jordan Spieth expected to address the media on his withdrawal from the Games on Tuesday.
“In looking at tennis, for example, you’d look back in 1988, John McEnroe chose not to play in those Olympic games. In fact, he competed in a tennis event in Los Angeles the same week as the Olympics. His comments then at that point were similar to other comments you’ve just made.
“But since that time after seeing Andre Agassi win the gold medal in Atlanta, and seeing some of the women players and Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal react the way they have to their Olympic achievement, he’s come around and said the exact opposite, that he regrets not playing in the Olympics.
“You talk to Serena Williams, who said if her house was burning down, she said the only thing she’d run into the house to get would be her Olympic gold medal. And tennis, as Peter mentioned, it’s almost 30 years now and it’s taken time for that kind of equity to be built up in the sport,” Votaw stressed.
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