Gary Player

Rio de Janeiro, Aug 5 (IANS) South African golfing legend Gary Player has criticised golfers who are skipping the Olympic tournament, which starts on August 11 here.

The world’s four top players — Australia’s Jason Day, Americans Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth, and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy — all declined to compete at the Olympics at the Marapendi course, reports Efe.

Player, winner of 165 titles, on Thursday, said he did not understand how so many star golfers could refuse to compete at Rio 2016 due to fear of the Zika virus.

“They don’t want to promote golf, they don’t realise how lucky they are, they don’t realise what the Olympic Games mean to the sport,” Player said.

The 80-year-old said he “would have given anything to play” at this year’s Olympics, even rowing to get to Rio, where golf returns as a sport after an 112-year absence.

South Africans Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen pulled out of the tournament, leaving only Jaco Van Zyl and Brandon Stone representing their country.

“You have a higher chance of getting killed in an automobile accident or by a gun than by Zika,” Player said.

Player also said the Olympic golf tournament should have been in matchplay format instead of strokeplay, since the former would have been better for spectators.

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