(Reuters) - Ladies European Tour’s chief executive Ivan Khodabakhsh has hit out at the world’s leading men golfers for taking a “myopic approach” and withdrawing from the Rio Olympics, adding that they have let down the rest of the sport.
The world’s top four players — Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy — have pulled out of the Games citing health concerns from the mosquito-born Zika virus which can cause birth defects in infants.
“The top male golfers have let down the rest of the sport very badly,” Khodabakhsh told British media.
“The opportunity to do something for the broader good of the game is in their hands and they seem to be taking a very myopic approach.
“Brazil is a country of 200 million people in which fewer than 20,000 are registered golfers. The impact of the Olympics on those type of numbers across the world is part of the reason that golf is a success as an Olympic sport this summer.”
World number four McIlroy had earlier hit back at critics who questioned his Olympic decision, saying that he was playing golf to win and not grow the sport.
While the men’s event has been hit by a host of pull-outs, New Zealand’s Lydia Ko will lead an almost full-strength lineup as golf makes it’s return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.
“British golf is represented by great champions Charley Hull and Catriona Matthew but across the world, 60 women golfers from 34 countries will tee off in Rio,” Khodabakhsh added.
“This will send a powerful message to sports fans and governments of all types that women’s golf is a genuine world-class sport.”
Reporting by Nivedita Shankar in Bengaluru; editing by Sudipto Ganguly