South Africa’s Branden Grace on Friday became the latest golfer to withdraw from the Rio Olympics because of fears over the Zika virus.
The 28-year-old, South Africa’s highest-ranked golfer at 11th in the world, won his first PGA Tour title at the RBC Heritage in April. He joins the likes of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell in announcing his intention not to compete at the Games starting on August 5.
The threat of the mosquito-borne virus has been cited as the reason for withdrawal by a number of golfers, as the sport returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.
Grace, who has seven European Tour wins to his name and is the third South African golfer to pull out of Rio, said his intention to start a family was the main reason for his decision.
“After serious consideration it is with regret that I have decided to withdraw myself from the Olympic competition due to the risk posed by the Zika virus,” he said in a statement.
“Although it was a huge goal of mine to represent my country in the Olympics, I am getting married in November and (my partner and I) are hoping to start a family in the near future so I must put the health of my family first.
“I wish the SA team the best of luck in Rio and sincerely apologise to the South African fans as I really appreciate all of the support they give me each week.
“It would have been a huge honour to represent my country so I really hope to be able to qualify again in four years’ time.”
McIlroy became the highest-profile player to confirm he will not compete in Rio. Fiji’s Vijay Singh and Marc Leishman of Australia earlier pulled out, with McDowell joining the growing list on Thursday.