Could the Zika virus mean the end of Olympic golf before it's even begun?


Golf's return to the Olympics, after a 112-year hiatus, has not gone entirely smoothly. 

There have been calls from fans and players that it should be for amateurs, rather than professionals. There have been doubts over whether the course would be ready in time. There have been suggestions that a 72-hole strokeplay format is unimaginative and boring. And there have been top players ruling themselves out of contention months in advance. 

But, with seven weeks left until golfers must make their final decision about whether or not they want to compete, nothing else can go wrong... can it?

"I'm going to listen to the medical advice that comes my way and I'll be honest, I'm not going to take any chances," says Shane Lowry. 

The Zika virus may prove to be the thing that spells the end for Olympic golf before it has even begun. 

"I'm not going to take any chances," adds Lowry. "Obviously I really want to go but there is a decision to be made. 

"I am recently a married man and I have to learn a lot more about the virus. I have to speak to the medical people from the European Tour and the doctors back home.

"How big a percentage is the risk? That's the really big one.

"I'm going to listen to the medical advice that comes my way and I'll be honest, I'm not going to take any chances."

Lowry isn't the only one concerned about travelling to Rio in light of the Zika virus. 

"I have been reading a lot of reports about Zika and there have been some articles that have come out saying that it might be worse than they are saying," says Rory McIlroy. "So, I have to monitor that situation."

The virus has links to birth defects, which is particular concern for 27-year-old McIlroy. 

"There’s going to be a point in time over the next couple of years where we’re going to have to start thinking about starting a family. Right now I’m ready to go but I don’t want anything to affect that."

Masters champion Danny Willett is another one closely monitoring the situation in Brazil.

"It's not great, is it? There's going to be 500,000 people watching the Olympics and you have 11,000 athletes right in the heart of where it's at," says Willett. "If it turns out that it would be a massive threat to myself or Nicole or to the little man, then I probably wouldn't go. Family comes first. But as it stands at the minute, I think everything should be OK.

"We're down to go and hopefully they can give us some proper guidelines as to how to keep it at bay and keep it under control so that it doesn't ruin what could be potentially a fantastic Olympics."