Golf's gender divide over Rio, and Zika
By Mark Lamport-Stokes
(Reuters) - When it comes to golfers and their interest in competing at this year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, a curious gender divide is emerging which, at first glance, is counter-intuitive.
While world number one Jason Day and fourth-ranked Rory McIlroy are among several big names in the men's game who have already opted out of Rio, not a single women's player has yet withdrawn from global sport's showpiece.
Both Day and McIlroy have cited Zika fears as their prime reason for pulling out, saying they were unwilling to put either themselves or their families at risk from a mosquito-borne virus that can cause crippling birth defects.
Yet even though pregnant women appear to be most vulnerable to the virus, Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) players have enthusiastically embraced golf's return to the Olympics after an absence of more than a century.
According to a recent Sports Illustrated survey, 40 percent of LPGA Tour players said they would prefer to win a gold medal in Rio than any of this year's four major golf championships.
In contrast, 29 percent of PGA Tour players expressed a preference for winning gold over the season's final major, the PGA Championship, and that percentage would likely have been lower if the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open had factored in.
Surprisingly, 62 percent of PGA Tour players rated the Players Championship, which is not a major, above Olympic success.
Based on that and other evidence collected so far, women players seem to have placed a higher priority on Olympic golf than a majority of their male counterparts. Continued...