It’s become commonplace for the world’s top-ranked players to drop out of the Olympics while they focus on a busy 2016 schedule with big-time tournaments occurring almost weekly. Now South Africa’s Jaco van Zyl is turning the tables.
Van Zyl, ranked No. 65 in the world, has withdrawn from next week’s Open Championship and the PGA Championship to ensure that he is fully rested and mentally prepared for the Olympics. Van Zyl moved into position to represent his home country after Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel withdrew. Here is his passionate statement about participating in Rio:
“I expect that there will be a camp that will criticize me for withdrawing from the Majors, but I feel very passionate about golf’s debut at the Olympics. Rory [McIlroy] said in a recent press conference that we play four ’Olympics’ a year because Major titles are what we play for, but I don’t agree.
To me, the Olympics is the pinnacle of all sporting events and to have the chance to represent Team South Africa on sports’ biggest stage is an honor I don’t take for granted. I need to go to Brazil with the rest of the South African team knowing that I am in peak mental and physical health and that I can give my best over four rounds.
The majors will still be there next year, but I don’t know if I will get another chance in 2020. To be part of the first South African team at the Olympics is a massive honor, and I owe it to SASCOC, Gary Player, South Africa, Paula [Reto], Ashleigh [Simon] and the player who will be joining me in the men’s competition to be at my best.”
It looks like the IOC has a new favorite golfer.