Zika risk 'non-event' for Rio-bound Rose

2016-07-12 14:21
Justin Rose

Troon - Justin Rose is hopeful the threat posed by the Zika virus will prove to be a "non-event" as he explained his decision to compete at the Rio Olympics next month.

Golf's return to the Olympics for the first time in 112 years has been hit by a host of the world's leading male players withdrawing en masse, with American star Jordan Spieth the latest name to pull out on Monday.

Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson had already withdrawn amid fears over the mosquito-borne virus, meaning that none of the world's current top four players will feature in Rio.

But Rose, whose words were echoed by reigning Masters champion Danny Willett, said: "I think the Zika risk is going to be one of those things that we look back at and think it's a non-event, hopefully.

"You're going to get down there and you're probably not going to see a mosquito in sight.

"But at the same time, no one can stand there and categorically tell you you're going to be okay, and that's the problem."

The International Golf Federation's president Peter Dawson admitted on Monday that the spate of pull-outs "hasn't shed golf in the best light" and Rose, 11 in the world, accepted that it was unfortunate to see so many leading names turn their backs on Brazil.

"It's been sort of a sad situation to see those sorts of guys pulling out. It's obviously weakened the field," said the Englishman.

"But you've got to respect their position. You do have to put your health and family first from that point of view."

Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler and Willett are some of the players who will feature in Rio, and Rose hopes golf can go on to retain its status as an Olympic sport after this year.

"I'm excited about it, treating it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I hope that I'll be able to play again in Tokyo," in 2020, added Rose, who was talking at Troon in Scotland ahead of this week's British Open.

Fellow Englishman Willett, who also features on the final list of 60 players revealed on Monday, said going to Rio was a risk worth taking.

"You've got more chance of getting malaria in South Africa than you have in getting Zika when you go to Rio," said Willett, 28.

"I think the opportunity was obviously there to be an Olympian and that to me was something that I think was going to be pretty cool.

"You don't know how many times you will be in the Olympics, if it will be in the Olympics again.

"I was pretty sure all along I wanted to go play unless the threat would have gotten worse, then it would have been a very different story.

"But from what I understand in speaking to the guys, the threat is lessening every day. It's obviously winter over there, and the guys are taking precautionary measures to make sure things are as safe as possible."

Defending the suggestion that the event will be less of a spectacle, Willett added: "You're still going to get to see some of the best golfers in the world competing, and there are a few that are going to be missing out there

"But I don't think it takes away from the event because one or two guys pull out."

Read more on:    olympics 2016  |  justin rose  |  golf

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