Ah, the good ol’ Friday night news dump! — at least Tiger Woods has the courtesy to do it at a *reasonable* hour, but hey, I guess that’s the benefit of being on the West Coast at the moment.
Dustin Johnson issued a statement late Friday night that he has withdrawn his name from the Olympics due to the threat of the Zika virus. Here is his full statement:
DJ, who is world no. 2 coming off wins at the U.S. Open and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, is just the latest top-ranked golfer to pull out of the Olympics, where golf is making its comeback to the game for the first time since 1904. In recent weeks, world no. 1 Jason Day and world no. 4 Rory McIlroy both withdrew their names from consideration to represent their respective countries because of the threat of the Zika virus, as well.
Other top golfers from Australia also announced that they would not be competing earlier. Adam Scott cited scheduling conflicts a few months ago. Marc Leishman also took his name out of the running. The top three golfers from South Africa have also declared their intention not to go to Rio: Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry also pulled out of the Olympics recently, citing Zika as the reason. Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland took his name out of consideration, too, saying he wanted to be with his wife Kristin during her pregnancy.
Japan’s top golfer Hideki Matsuyama regrettably pulled out of the Olympics earlier this week. And Vijay Singh of Fiji withdrew several months ago, as well.
Replacing DJ, who has been the first American golfer to withdraw, will be Patrick Reed, who will join Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth on the American squad (unless Rickie or Jordan WD and that would be pretty lame).
A day ago, Reed told reporters at the Scottish Open that he would be honored to represent the U.S. at the Olympics.
“Any time I can wear stars and stripes, I do it,” he said. “I get the call tomorrow, I’ll be on the flight. It doesn’t matter to me on where it is, when it is. If I can play for my country, I’m going to go play.”
Well, at least that makes someone!
One thing in defense of the guys who have withdrawn their names, like Jason, Rory and DJ. According to what I’ve read, the threat of the Zika virus — albeit low — is more dangerous to men than women. Mostly, it sounds like it’s because there’s been more research conducted about how it impacts pregnancy in women, but for men, it sounds like it’s unknown how long Zika — which can cause birth defects in newborns — stays in the system (including the sex organs).
There are also concerns with security, as Rio isn’t exactly known to be the safest of countries. I was told by a woman in the industry that she received a long list of precautions and one of them was about getting rides in the “official” shuttles and how she shouldn’t get into one unless she is accompanied by two men she knows. I mean, what the heck! Basically, if you’re not with an entourage, it sounds pretty sketchy. I assume that at least the women golfers will be traveling in groups and/or with their entourages.
So, I honestly don’t blame anyone for bailing, but then there’s another school of thought.
I’ve heard some rumblings on the women’s side that are annoyed their male counterparts are bailing on Rio. Some of them think the men are too spoiled and probably wouldn’t have pulled out if they were staying in five-star hotels instead of the dormitory-like Olympic village, where athletes have been told to bring mosquito nets and forewarned about the roaches. Sounds like it’ll be a cess pool. But yeah, that wouldn’t be appealing to the male golfers who are more used to staying at the Four Seasons than some slum in Rio (I’m sure it won’t be that bad).
The world’s top female golfers — none of whom have withdrawn — are singing a different tune than the men, as most are very much looking forward to the experience. American Stacy Lewis, the eighth-ranked golfer, essentially sums it up in a diplomatic yet candid manner, according to GolfChannel.com.
“It’s hard,” Lewis said. “Those guys play for so much money, and I think you kind of get lost in that at times. If I knew that I had the potential of a $10 million paycheck at the end of the year, I’d probably do my schedule a little bit different, too.
“You become a product of that environment. You have that opportunity to win that that money, you become a product of it. And you can’t blame them for being that way. They are bread to be that way, with the amount of money that they play for.
“On our tour, while we have some pretty good paychecks, it’s nowhere close to what those guys are playing for. So, to me, the opportunity to play in the Olympics, and to represent your country, is probably worth as much as winning a U.S. Women’s Open or winning an [ANA Inspiration] or winning any of those big majors. Winning a gold medal would be up there with winning a major championship, to me, and that’s the difference of the men versus the women.”
That said, I’m not surprised the men are dropping like flies (or should I say, mosquitoes? GROAN.) At the end of the day, there are four tournaments that matter for the men: The Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and PGA Championship. “Olympic Golf” would be a huge honor, but it’s not the end all be all for the guys.