McIlroy, Willett won't go to Rio if threat serious

An emotional Rory McIlroy on the 18th green on Sunday prior to winning the Irish Open. Having chosen to represent Ireland in Rio, there is a chance he may miss out over the Zika virus, as he and his fiancee would be starting a family in a few years.
An emotional Rory McIlroy on the 18th green on Sunday prior to winning the Irish Open. Having chosen to represent Ireland in Rio, there is a chance he may miss out over the Zika virus, as he and his fiancee would be starting a family in a few years.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Rory McIlroy took a long time to decide he would represent Ireland at the Rio Olympics but the 27-year-old could now miss golf's return to the Games after a 112-year absence because of concerns over the Zika virus.

The Northern Irishman had threatened to skip the Olympics as he agonised over representing Britain or Ireland in Brazil but after opting for the latter in 2014, the four-time Major winner may avoid the Games because of the mosquito-borne disease.

First detected in Brazil last year, Zika has been linked in that country to more than 1,300 cases of microcephaly, a rare birth defect defined by unusually small heads and something that is a concern for McIlroy.

"There's going to be a point in the next couple of years where we (McIlroy and fiancee Erica Stoll) are going to have to think about starting a family," the world No. 3 told the British media after winning the Irish Open on Sunday.

But he remains optimistic over his participation as he continues to monitor the situation.

"I have been reading a lot of reports about Zika and there have been some articles coming out saying that it might be worse than they are saying," he said.

"I am actually going to get my injections on Wednesday - at least I will be immunised for whatever... if I do get bitten by a mosquito down there."

Masters champion Danny Willett is also is keeping a close eye on the situation.

"We are monitoring it," he told reporters at Wentworth yesterday ahead of the European PGA Championship starting tomorrow.

"I had an e-mail from the WHO (World Health Organisation) and we are keeping on top of it.

"If it turns out that it would be a massive threat to myself or to Nic or to Little Man (son), then I probably wouldn't go. Family comes first. But as it stands at the minute, I think everything should be okay."

Three-time Major winner Vijay Singh and Australian golfer Marc Leishman have both withdrawn from the Rio Games in August owing to concerns over the virus.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2016, with the headline 'McIlroy, Willett won't go to Rio if threat serious'. Print Edition | Subscribe