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Dustin Johnson withdraws from the Summer Olympic Games in Rio

Dustin Johnson acknowledges applause after winning the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on July 3. Johnson announced Friday he is withdrawing from the Olympics.
Dustin Johnson acknowledges applause after winning the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on July 3. Johnson announced Friday he is withdrawing from the Olympics. TNS

Dustin Johnson has withdrawn from the Summer Olympics, citing concern about the Zika virus.

The Coastal Carolina alumnus announced his decision in a statement released Friday by his agent, David Winkle of Hambric Sports Management.

“As an athlete, I can think of no greater honor than representing the United States in the Olympic Games,” read his statement. “However, after much careful consideration and discussion with both my family and my team, I have made the decision to withdraw from the 2016 Olympic Games.

“This was not an easy decision for me, but my concerns about the Zika Virus cannot be ignored. Paulina and I plan to have more children in the near future, and I feel it would be irresponsible to put myself, her or our family at risk. I believe I am making the right decision for me and most importantly, my family.”

Johnson and fiancée Paulina Gretzky have one child, an 18-month-old son, Tatum.

The Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes and can cause severe birth defects including babies being born with abnormally small heads, and is a concern in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, site of the men’s Olympic golf competition, which begins Aug. 11.

Johnson, who has won his last two starts on the PGA Tour including the U.S. Open, said as recently as last Wednesday that he intended to participate in golf’s inclusion in the Olympics for the first time since 1904. The sport is also slated for the 2020 Games in Tokyo, but the International Olympic Committee will vote next year to decide if it will continue beyond that as an Olympic sport.

The men’s U.S. Olympic golf team will be determined Monday by the Official World Golf Ranking. It will be a minimum of two players and maximum of four if four players in the top 15 of the world ranking commit to play. There are currently six Americans in the top 15, and Johnson is the first to pull out of the Games.

The other players are Bubba Watson, who has two adopted children and has vowed to play, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar. If there are no more withdrawals, the U.S. team would be comprised of Watson, Spieth, Fowler and Reed.

Johnson, ranked No. 2 in the world, becomes the 13th male golfer to pull out of the field for the Rio Games, where golf makes its return after a 112-year absence. They include three of the top four players in the world, as major champions Jason Day and Rory McIlroy have also withdrawn citing the Zika virus as a major concern.

Alan Blondin: 843-626-0284, @alanblondin

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