(Reuters) – World number two Jordan Spieth has played down fears that the Zika virus could affect his participation at the 2016 Rio Games, adding that he is looking forward to the “tremendous honour” of representing his country in Brazil.
The 22-year-old, who will defend his U.S. Open title at Oakmont this week, had not categorically committed to the event over fears of the mosquito-borne virus, which has been linked to birth defects and developmental problems in babies.
With golf returning to the Olympics after a 112-year absence, Spieth said he was satisfied by the information given by the PGA Tour.
“Based on what’s come to my knowledge at this point, it seems like it’s going to be an extremely memorable experience,” Spieth told reporters in a press conference on Monday.
“I look forward to trying to win a gold for the United States.”
“Do I think being an Olympian outweighs any significant health threat? No. If I thought that the threat was significant, I certainly would not go.”
World number one Jason Day also expressed doubt about his participation over fears about the virus earlier this month.
U.S. health officials have concluded that Zika infections in pregnant women can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by small head size that can lead to severe developmental problems in babies.
The World Health Organization has said there is strong scientific consensus that Zika can also cause Guillain-Barre, a rare neurological syndrome that causes temporary paralysis in adults.
The connection between Zika and microcephaly first came to light last fall in Brazil, which has now confirmed more than 1,400 cases of microcephaly that it considers to be related to Zika infections in the mothers.
The Rio Olympics take place from Aug. 5-21.
(Reporting by Nivedita Shankar in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar)