Gary Player and Danny Willett on Zika at Rio 2016


Sixteen male golfers have pulled out of the Rio Olympics so far and the string of withdrawals are sure to make it harder to argue the sport should continue in the Games beyond 2020.

The idea that golfers regarded the Olympics as something they could do without is certainly logical and Masters Champion Danny Willett believes that Zika is simply an excuse for some of the game's biggest names.

"The Zika thing was a simple way of having an excuse," said Willett, speaking at the Berenberg Gary Player Invitational.

"It would be interesting if Zika wasn’t around because you have still got a few guys withdrawing purely because of the scheduling.

"I have played Leopard Creek (in South Africa) about four or five times and there is more of a risk of contracting malaria than there is getting Zika in Rio. As long as you take the appropriate precautions, you should be OK.

"It is a shame [the number of withdrawals] but I don’t think it should take anything away from what should be a fantastic Olympic Games.

"There is still going to be a fantastic field going down to Rio to compete. For all the negatives, we are still going to get one of the strongest fields this year.

"Hopefully a few more people will play in Tokyo, too."

Nine time major champion, Gary Player echoed Willett's opinions and went further saying he was shocked by the situation but priased lady golfers for their resolute approach to Zika at Rio 2016.

Player told Today's Golfer: "I am absolutely in a state of shock to be quite honest with you. In America, over 70,000 people a year are killed by guns and motor cars.

"You have got far greater chance of being killed by guns or a motor car than Zika. The press can hype anything up to the point where you are petrified.

"You will have three and a half billion people watching the Olympics and golf needs to be promoted. Golf is not healthy amongst amateurs and the average man. 

" I did accept it when Brandon [Grace] had the courtesy to phone me [to withdraw], which I appreciated as captain of the South African team. I respect his opinion. I don't agree with it but I respect it to a great degree.

"Thankfully, the ladies have been fantastic. Only one lady has withdrawn; a South African lady I am sad to say. These ladies have been absolutely unbelievable and we've got to appeal to the IOC to keep us in there because golf is a big game around the world."

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