Thursday, July 14, 2016

Spieth says Olympic withdrawal was hardest decision of his life

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Jordan Spieth faced the music — “The Star-Spangled Banner,” perhaps — on Tuesday at the British Open, explaining and defending his 11th-hour choice to skip the Olympic golf tournament.

Spieth said that the decision was based on “health concerns,” though he didn’t specifically pin those concerns on the spread of Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. Spieth did say Zika factored into his overall decision, but called the issue personal.

The two-time major winner branded the choice, panned in many golf circles, as the most difficult of his life — tougher than, as he said, where to attend college and when to turn pro.

”Why was it so hard? Because I’m a huge believer in Olympic golf,” said Spieth, who figured prominently in American advertising promoting golf’s return to the Olympic program after a 112-year absence.

Spieth is hardly the only big-name male golfer who has withdrawn his name from Olympic consideration. The top four players in world, including Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, are all not competing in the 60-player men’s tournament. A total of 20 men who would have qualified for the Olympic tournament chose not to play.

”This year I just had to try and weigh a risk that doesn’t present itself every year,” he added. ”And just at the time that I had to make the decision, I just felt this was the right move for me. Not everybody’s going to understand. Nobody’s going to understand what it’s like in my shoes. … Mine came down to just a very personal decision that, again, I don’t expect anybody to understand, but trust that I believe I’m making the right decision for myself, for my future and for those around me.”

However, just because Spieth’s calendar is now free that week doesn’t mean he’s looking for a place to play. Though the John Deere Classic, a title Spieth won the week before the Open last year, is played opposite the Olympics this year, the Texan will not defend his title.

”I don’t think it would be an appropriate move to play that week, so I will not be playing that week,” he said. ”I don’t think it would be appropriate given our decision on the Olympics.”

Instead, he’ll be pulling for his friend Rickie Fowler, who Spieth was alongside on Sunday when Fowler tweeted that he would be playing in Rio. Fowler and Spieth had planned to room together in Brazil, but Fowler was supportive of Spieth’s choice.

”He said, ‘No worries. I know you had to make it just for you. You’re just going to be jealous when I get that gold,”’ Spieth said. ”That’s what he said. So that’s how it went.”

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