Leishman pulls out of Rio in another blow to Australia
SYDNEY – Marc Leishman will not compete at the Rio Olympics golf tournament in another blow to Australia’s medal hopes following Adam Scott’s decision to skip the Games.
Leishman, who would have represented Australia along with world number one Jason Day, withdrew citing the mosquito-borne Zika virus and health concerns for his wife.
The 32-year-old’s wife Audrey suffered toxic shock syndrome, a potentially fatal illness caused by bacterial infection, last year and she was still recovering, Leishman said.
“Many of you may know that last April my children and I almost lost my wife, Audrey, to toxic shock syndrome,” said the world number 35, a PGA Tour title-winner.
“Since then Audrey has been prone to infection and is far removed from 100 per cent recovery of her immune system.
“We have consulted with Audrey’s physician and due to her ongoing recovery from toxic shock and potential risks associated with the transmission of the Zika virus, it was a difficult yet easy decision not to participate.”
Zika has been linked with the birth defect microcephaly that has been sweeping through South and Central America and the Caribbean and making its way north to the United States.
The connection between Zika and microcephaly came to light last fall in Brazil, which has now confirmed more than 1,100 cases of microcephaly that it considers to be related to Zika infections in the mothers.
Leishman missed last year’s US Masters to be by his wife’s side when she was given only a five percent chance of survival.
The 2009 PGA Tour rookie-of-the-year returned to the game after a lengthy absence and went within one putt of winning the British Open.
Former Masters champion Scott, the first prominent player to confirm he would not play at Rio, announced his decision two weeks ago, having previously been cool on the tournament for its adoption of the standard individual strokeplay format.
He will instead take a break with family after a busy summer schedule, and defended his decision in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday.
Louis Oosthuizen and fellow major-winning South African Charl Schwartzel, along with Fijian triple major-winner Vijay Singh, have also elected to skip Rio, where golf returns for the first time in 112 years.
While greats of the game, including Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, have been critical of the dropouts, Leishman asked for understanding. “The Masters and the Olympics are the two biggest tournaments to which a golfer can be invited; however, my family will always come before golf,” he said.
Tournament entrants will be finalised on July 11 based on world rankings. Australian Marcus Fraser, ranked 63rd, is next in line to join Day, who is hugely enthusiastic about playing in Rio. -Reuters