Lack of money, not Zika reason for golfers’ Rio withdrawals
The head of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics says the world’s top four male golfers have withdrawn from the Games because there is no money to be won - not because of the Zika virus.
“They tried to blame Zika, but the media have shown that they are not coming because there’s no prize money,” Rio organizing committee President Carlos Nuzman said Saturday, speaking with the Games set to open in just under three weeks.
Jordan Spieth was the last of the top four to withdraw from the Olympics, citing health concerns and other matter he said were personal. Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy said Zika was the main reason for skipping the first Olympic golf tournament in 112 years. Their absence could be a setback for golf’s future in the Olympics. IOC President Thomas Bach has said that golf’s future may rest on its ability to get top players to show up.
Golf is guaranteed a spot in the Tokyo Olympics in four years, but could be vulnerable after that.
“Zika is much worse in Florida than in Brazil, and golfers are playing in Florida,” Nuzman said.
Male golfers have also cited security worries, and some have complained that Olympic golf has been wedged into an already crowded tour schedule.
Rio has myriad Olympic problems: Zika, security concerns, severe water pollution and sluggish ticket sales.
Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes warned in the wake of the attack Thursday in Nice, France, that fans in Rio could face more checks, more roadblocks and more delays.
“Probably the security forces are going to demand more blockades, more inconvenient things,” Paes said.
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, one of the golfers that withdrew from the Rio Games over Zika virus