(Reuters) - American Rickie Fowler says he will play in next month’s Olympic golf competition in Rio de Janeiro, a welcome development for an event that has been hit by a spate of withdrawals by top players.
World number seven Fowler tweeted on Sunday that he was committed to the Aug. 11-14 men’s competition in Rio.
“Looking forward to wearing some red white and blue in Rio,” he tweeted.
Fowler’s comment speaks volumes about the apathy of many of the top men’s golfers toward the Rio Games, given that a player announcing that he will play is greeted as news.
So many leading players have already ruled themselves out of the 2016 Olympics, including five of the world’s top 10, that it barely qualifies as news when another withdraws.
Top-ranked Jason Day and fellow Australian Adam Scott (eighth), American Dustin Johnson (second), Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy (fourth) and South African Branden Grace (10th) have all opted out of Rio.
Most have expressed concerns about Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that the World Health Organization says is spreading rapidly in the Americas, though some have cited scheduling and family issues.
The women’s Olympic golf competition is shaping up to be a much stronger event with only one woman so far ruling herself out, South African Lee-Anne Pace.
Golf is returning to the Games for the first time since 1904 and will remain in the Olympic programme for the 2020 edition in Tokyo, but could be on shaky ground after that if the many of the top men remain absent.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes