July 4, 2016 / 4:31 AM / 3 years ago

Golfer Matsuyama to skip Olympics, cites Zika fears

Jun 17, 2016; Oakmont, PA, USA; Hideki Matsuyama hits his tee shot on the 14th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Oakmont Country Club. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama has become the latest golfer to opt out of the Rio Games due to fears over the Zika virus in another setback to the sport as it makes its return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.

World number one Jason Day of Australia pulled out last Tuesday, a week after world number four Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland announced he would not compete at the Olympics.

Twice major winner Jordan Spieth is still undecided about whether to participate amid ongoing concerns about Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that the World Health Organization says is spreading rapidly in the Americas.

“Although I am excited that golf is returning to the Olympics and I realize that my potential success would help grow the game in Japan, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot put myself or my team member’s health at risk,” the 24-year-old Matsuyama said in a statement.

“I have been getting information from all the concerned parties as well as my doctors about the situation in Rio but I cannot be 100 percent sure about my safety, and my team’s safety, from the Zika Virus.

“Additionally, my body has a tendency to react strongly to insect bites. Therefore, after careful thought, I made a heart wrenching decision not to participate in the Olympics this year.”

Reporting by Tim Wharnsby; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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