Rory McIlroy has withdrawn from competing in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, citing concerns over the Zika virus.
McIlroy joins a growing list of PGA Tour golfers sitting the Games out, including Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and others.
“After speaking with those closest to me, I’ve come to realize that my health and my family’s health comes before anything else,” McIlroy announced in a statement Wednesday. “Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take.”
The announcement is a change of heart for the 26-year-old Northern Irishman, who earlier this month said he wasn’t concerned about the virus and had plans to compete.
As one of the top players in the world, McIlroy’s backing out of the Games will likely be seen as a huge blow for golf’s return to the Olympics.
The International Golf Federation issued a statement following McIlroy’s withdrawal, expressing their understanding, yet disappointment, with the golfer’s decision.
“The IGF is disappointed with Rory’s decision but recognizes that some players will have to weigh personally a unique set of circumstances as they contemplate their participation in golf’s historic return to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, with the Zika virus foremost among them,” the statement reads. “It is unfortunate that the Zika virus has led to Rory’s decision to withdraw from the Olympic Games, knowing how much he was looking forward to taking part. As we have stated before, the Olympics is the world’s greatest celebration of sport and we remain excited about golf’s return after a 112-year absence. It will truly be a special occasion for our sport and we are confident that the 60 men and 60 women who will represent their respective countries will find it an experience they will cherish forever.”