Golf’s future as an Olympic sport has seemed precarious in the past few weeks, as multiple top-ranked golfers bowed out of the games. But now things are looking up: Rory McIlroy will not be joining the parade of no-thank-yous. The Northern Irishman, who will play for the Irish Olympic team, has said that he is no longer worried about the Zika virus and doesn’t see it as an impediment to participation.
McIlroy had previously told the BBC that he was keeping a close eye on Zika and hadn’t ruled out the possibility that he would not go to Rio because of the virus. But this week, McIlroy told reporters that he was “ready to play“:
“I feel like the advice I’ve sought out over the past 10 days has put my mind at ease and makes me more comfortable going down there knowing that, even if I do contract Zika, it’s not the end of the world. It takes six months to pass through your system and you’re fine.”
While many of the stars who said they’d pass on a shot at Olympic glory cited the condensed summer schedule as the main reason (Australia’s Adam Scott, for example), others expressed concerns about the Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects in infants born to infected mothers. Marc Leishman, also Australian, withdrew his name in May because of fears about his wife’s health and Zika.
As one of the sport’s biggest names, McIlroy’s confirmed presence is an important coup for the Olympics and for golf’s future in them.