Dustin Johnson withdrew his name from Olympic consideration late Friday, citing Zika fears.
The U.S. Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational winner is the first American to withdraw from the 60-player men’s Olympic tournament in Rio de Janeiro. Johnson, who has a son Tatum with partner Paulina Gretzky, released a statement which read:
As an athlete, I can think of no greater honor than representing the United States in the Olympic Games. However, after much careful consideration and discussion with both my family and my team, I have made the decision to withdraw from the 2016 Olympic Games. This was not an easy decision for me, but my concerns about the Zika Virus cannot be ignored. Paulina and I plan to have more children in the near future, and I feel like it would be irresponsible to put myself, her or our family at risk. I believe I am making the right decision for me and, most importantly, my family. While I am sure some will be critical of my decision, my hope is that most will understand and support it. That being said, those who choose to compete in Rio certainly have my respect and best wishes for a(n) unforgettable and safe experience.
Johnson joins world No. 1 Jason Day and world No. 4 Rory McIlroy, among a growing list of other, mostly male golfers, in skipping golf’s return to the Olympics over fears of Zika, which is transmitted by mosquitoes and can cause birth defects when carried by pregnant women. Golf has not been in the Olympic program since 1904 in St. Louis.
After winning the U.S. Open at Oakmont, Johnson said he planned on representing the United States in the Olympics. He reiterated that stance ahead of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after a meeting between U.S. Olympic golf officials and the four Americans who had qualified for the Olympics: Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson.
“I thought the meeting was good,” Johnson said. “It cleared up a lot of things. Still waiting to hear back on a couple things that all four of us had a concern about, but we’ll have some answers early next week. At this point I’m going to go to the Olympics and represent my country, and I’m looking forward to it.”
The current American contingent for the men’s tournament includes Spieth, Fowler, Watson and world No. 13 Patrick Reed, who would take Johnson’s place. Any country participating in the Olympic golf tournaments can send a maximum of four players to each event provided all four players are in the top 15 of the Olympic golf ranking. For the men, that’s based off the Official World Golf Ranking. The United States is the only country in the men’s tournament that could have the maximum allotment in the field.
Ahead of this week’s Scottish Open, Reed said he would compete in Brazil, given the opportunity.
“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.”
Were Spieth, Fowler or Watson to withdraw their names, world No. 15 Matt Kuchar would currently be the next player to get in the Brazil field. However, the Olympic cutoff comes after next week’s British Open, and Kuchar may not remain in the top 15 in the ranking depending on the results at Royal Troon.