Paul McGinley has expressed his disappointment at Rory McIlroy’s decision to withdraw from consideration from the Olympic Games but he also said he respects the Co Down man’s right to take his own health decisions.
The Irish team leader said: “Rory’s announcement comes down to a decision based on health reasons and we are all disappointed that we are not going to see Rory trying to win a medal for Ireland in Rio.
“It was a very late decision from Rory and that he has formed this opinion is clearly based on something that’s happened in the last week to 10 days and is not something that he had planned."
McIlroy first mentioned his concerns over ZIka the day after his win in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open but later said his fears had been eased.
“If he was planning to pull out back then, he wouldn’t have gone to have his shots and walked around with a dead arm for four days,” McGinley said, adding it was not his remit to try to persuade McIlroy one way or the other when it came down to a health decision.
When they spoke about Zika originally, McGinley said he “furnished him with the expert names and all the contact details.”
The pair also spoke at length last night though McGinley was not expecting an announcement from the McIlroy camp today.
Speaking on RTE Radio later, McGinley added: "It's his decision, it's not for me to influence him. This is a health concern that he has. He's discussed it with his family and his wife-to-be and has came to this conclusion. He notified us last night to say that 'this is the decision I've come to... this is what's going to happen'."
McIlroy claimed that one reason for competing at Rio was because he didn't want to let McGinley down.
"Paul McGinley is the Irish team captain and he is so into it. He's more into it than I am quite honestly, but because he is, I would feel like I am not only letting him down, I'd let the country down as well. Paul is a very close friend of mine and if I didn't play I'd let him down big time."
Asked if he felt let down, McGinley said: "No, I don't. As as Irishman I'm disappointed, it's not about me. With Rory we had a very legitimate chance of gold. We still have a lot of good players coming behind for us that could win a medal too, hopefully a gold, and we move forward in that direction," he added.
"We have a lot of very strong players who will be representing Ireland and fingers crossed we will come home with a medal."
The governing body for golf in the Olympics, the International Golf Federation headed by former R&A chief executive, Peter Dawson, issued a statement following McIlroy's withdrawal, expressing disappointment:
The IGF is disappointed with Rory’s decision but recognises that some players will have to weigh personally a unique set of circumstances as they contemplate their participation in golf's historic return to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, with the Zika virus foremost among them. It is unfortunate that the Zika virus has led to Rory's decision to withdraw from the Olympic Games, knowing how much he was looking forward to taking part. As we have stated before, the Olympics is the world's greatest celebration of sport and we remain excited about golf's return after a 112-year absence. It will truly be a special occasion for our sport and we are confident that the 60 men and 60 women who will represent their respective countries will find it an experience they will cherish forever.
While Shane Lowry remains committed to Rio for now, Graeme McDowell is next in line to represent Ireland and McGinley remains excited about the Games and Ireland’s chances of a medal.
“We are very lucky in Ireland that there are quality players coming up in Rory’s rear view mirror,” McGinley said.
“We will move forward. I am still fully committed to my role and our plans are in full swing. The OCI is taking its lead from the IOC to assure everybody that Zika is not a concern for the Olympics.”
McIlroy spoke about Zika at The Memorial, explaining “I’ve sought out some advice, and I had two dead shoulders for about four days last week because I got my shots and whatever I needed to get for going down there. Obviously, there's no vaccination for Zika.
"I think what the health experts are really worried about, it's not the individual cases. It's the fact that 500,000 people go to Rio, extra people, and they spend three weeks at the Games, they go back out of Rio, and some might have contracted Zika and don't know about it, and then all of a sudden, instead of it being this virus that's contained in a certain part of the world, it's now a global epidemic. And I think that's the real concern.
“So for me to go down there, even if I was to get Zika, it's not -- you know, it's six months, and it's a virus, and it works its way out of your system, and it's nice that we can come back, and feel like you've had some of the symptoms down there, you can get tested for it, and it's either a yes or a no you've had it.
"It's a virus. It works its way out of your system, and you become immune to it or whatever. "But, yeah, I'm ready to play. I feel like the advice I've sought out over the past ten days has put my mind at ease and makes me more comfortable going down there knowing that, even if I do contract Zika, it's not the end of the world. It takes six months to pass through your system and you're fine."
During the US Open, he said: "Rio is part of our schedule now and something that we should get excited about. You know, golf in the Olympics, it's great for the game. I feel like it should hopefully grow the game in different parts of the world that haven't been exposed to golf.
"The chatter has been somewhat quiet so far. I mean, mostly everyone's just been talking about Zika and everything else. But I think once we get these Majors out of the way, there's a lot of trophies and things to play for before that. But once we get that out of the way, our attention will turn to that, and I think everyone will start to get a bit more excited about it.”