The Olympic golf tournaments suffered their first marquee withdrawal on Tuesday when world No. 7 Adam Scott announced he will not participate in August’s Rio Games.
“My decision has been taken as a result of an extremely busy playing schedule around the time of the Olympics and other commitments, both personal and professional,” the 35-year-old, who was in line to represent his native Australia, said in a statement. “I have informed the Australian team captain (Ian Baker-Finch) and relevant authorities, who are understanding of my position and I wish the Australian Olympic team the very best of luck in Rio.”
The announcement shouldn’t come as an utter shock, given that Scott’s public comments in the past year have branded him lukewarm on Olympic golf at best. Still, the decision no doubt comes as a blow to tournament organizers.
In a Global Golf Post Now item last November, I gently chided Scott for his Olympic stance and voiced my suspicion that he would have a change of heart before this summer. Clearly I was wrong.
With the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the Open Championship the PGA Championship and the Olympics all taking place within a seven-week span in July and August, Scott’s busy schedule excuse is legit.
Moreover, I wrote my previous post before concerns about the Zika virus in Brazil became widely publicized. Although Scott didn’t cite these concerns, one can infer that they might have been a factor, given that Scott and his wife, Marie Kojzar, have a 1-year-old daughter and Kojzar is of childbearing age.
As it stands currently, Marc Leishman, the world’s 34th-ranked player, is in line to replace Scott alongside Jason Day on the Australian Olympic squad. But the Zika threat will play into Leishman’s thinking about participation as well, given that his wife, Audrey, had a near-fatal encounter with toxic shock syndrome last year and still is recovering from its effects. (Read our story about Audrey Leishman’s survival.)
“I am aware I am now next in line but I must make sure I get all the relevant information because this will be a big decision for me and for my family,” Leishman told the Australian Associated Press.
Three-time major champion Vijay Singh, who was in line to represent his native Fiji in the Olympics, announced last week that he will not participate, mentioning the Zika virus in his comments though not citing it as the main reason for his decision. But the absence of Singh, who is 53 and past his prime, won’t hurt the Olympic tournaments as much as that of Scott, who would have been a prime gold medal contender.
Women such as world No. 2 Inbee Park have expressed Zika concerns, but thus far none have announced their intentions to forgo the trip to Rio. For the sake of golf’s successful return to the Games, here’s hoping that Scott’s decision and the Zika circumstances won’t open the floodgates.