I know that Zika, the Olympics and scheduling debates do not make the most enjoyable golf reading, but longtime readers know I've been excited about Olympic golf's prospects in spite of the unimaginative format.
While I will not defend the selection of Rio, nor be hitting the streets there at night (or day!), I do think the Olympic golf course will send a great message to the world and become an iconic venue of the 2016 games. And once the competition starts, the intrigue will be there to see who wins, who surprises and who inspires. Then, we can go about finding a format that excites players, fans and the IOC, while maybe even peeking the interest of those who have not seen what kind of emotions are elicited by team match play.
In the meantime, however, a few things to consider before I ask your vote.
Jason Sobel nailed the entire male golfer/Zika/schedule/format mess in this ESPN.com column titled, "How Zika virus lets golfers off the hook for wanting to skip Rio Olympics."
Use the excuse that it's a crowded schedule and the Olympics are an unnecessary detour from their overall goals, and they'll be criticized for a me-first attitude. Explain that competing in another no-money event (in addition to the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup) is an unfair ask, and they'll be ripped for greediness. Suggest that playing once per year for one's country should be enough, and they'll be castigated for a lack of patriotism. Contend that traveling to a country with an increasingly unstable government is a poor personal choice, and they'll be tsk-tsked for eschewing private resort accommodations.
And then along came the Zika virus.
It became the perfect get-out-of-jail-free card for professional golfers. Despite medical experts insisting there is minimal risk of contracting the virus in Rio de Janeiro during the Olympic fortnight, it's impossible to denounce a player's decision to skip the tournament based on the long-term welfare of his family.
I have been in touch with folks on the ground in Rio, and golf course superintendent Neil Cleverly confirms that not a single member of the maintenance crew has contracted Zika. Furthermore, testing done over the last few weeks by the City of Rio health department found after a week of capturing and testing mosquitos that there were no transmitter Mosquitos found in the traps. Meaning that it is unlikely that Zika is in the area. Also, remember, the course is by the salt water and there is almost always a breeze. Not exactly mosquito breeding grounds.
As of June 7th, according to 2016 Rio Olympics Chief Medical Officer Joao Grangeiro, there have been zero Zika infections reported among the 17,000 athletes, volunteers and staffers participating in test events over the last year.
Reuters' Julie Steenhuysen reported that researchers at the Sao Paulo School of Medicine project that the risk of tourists contracting Zika during the Olympics at 1.8 cases per million people. Numbers suggest 500,000 international visitors are expected in Rio for the 2016 games.
I suspect this information has been passed along to the golfers. Now, as reader Mike notes in this RuthlessGolf post, there is a plausible explanation for male athletes having a greater concern than female athletes, assuming they do not want to use a condom for six months.
Moving right along...
Since everyone has a theory on why some of the world's best male golfers want no part of Rio--there are still many others who are looking forward to the event--what would you vote as the top reason the likes of Day, Lowry, Oosthuizen, McIlroy and Schwartzel have dropped out?