Rio 2016: Rory McIlroy says Olympics withdrawals not embarrassing

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy was expected to represent Ireland at the Olympic Games before pulling out over Zika virus fears

Rory McIlroy says the number of leading players pulling out of this summer's Olympic Games should not be "embarrassing" for golf.

World number three McIlroy, 27, and world number one Jason Day are among those who will not be competing in Rio, citing fears about the Zika virus.

The Northern Irishman said the Games were not the "pinnacle" for golfers.

"Most athletes dream of competing in the Olympics," he said. "We dream of winning Claret Jugs and Green Jackets."

Ireland's London 2012 gold medal boxer Katie Taylor has questioned the golfers' decision and said there "is more chance of getting killed by a spider in Australia" than there is of contracting Zika in Brazil.

The virus is mosquito-borne and has been linked to defects in newborn babies, prompting those looking to start a family to take extra precautions.

Olympic chiefs and the World Health Organisation have issued guidance for athletes and visitors to Rio and say the risk of catching Zika is low.

But McIlroy said: "People just aren't comfortable going down there and putting themselves or their family at risk.

"If the Olympics were in most other cities or countries, you wouldn't find as many people not wanting to go.

"There's another Games in Tokyo in 2020 and I'm more than happy to wait until then to get that Olympic experience."

Day became the sixth high-profile player to pull out of the Rio Games earlier this week, joining fellow Australian Marc Leishman, Fiji's Vijay Singh, South Africa's Branden Grace and Ireland pair McIlory and Graeme McDowell.

Just one female player, South Africa's world number 38 Lee-Anne Pace, has withdrawn over Zika.

The sport is returning to the Olympics at Rio after a 112-year absence.

Michael Johnson
Four-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson gives his view on the withdrawals

American two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, however, has committed to competing in Brazil.

"If I was planning on having more kids, I would not go," said Watson. "But I'm not. I'm in a situation where that's not happening, so my decision was a lot easier."

Watson's compatriot, Jordan Spieth, is the highest-ranked player set to compete in Rio but remains "undecided" having seen others drop out.

"No matter what I do there's already been enough players withdrawing that I think it'll definitely have an impact," Spieth, 22, said.

"Pending some crazy, great finish, I think there's a significantly lower likelihood now of it staying in the Olympics than there was six months ago."

When tennis returned to the Games in Seoul in 1988, only eight of the men's top 20 players competed in the singles.

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