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Shane Lowry pulls out of Rio Olympics due to Zika virus concerns

Shane Lowry, of the Republic of Ireland, watches

Shane Lowry, of the Republic of Ireland, watches his tee shot on the ninth hole during the final round of the US Open golf championship on Sunday, June 19, 2016 at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Penn. Photo Credit: AP/ Charlie Riedel

AKRON, Ohio — Shane Lowry of Ireland says if the Olympics were anywhere other than Rio de Janeiro, he would be the first to show up. Instead, he is the sixth golfer to withdraw because of the Zika virus.

Lowry, who got married in April, said he wants to start a family and soon and he received “firm medical advice” from doctors in Dublin that he should not go to Rio. He joins Rory McIlroy as the top two Irish golfers who won’t be in the Olympics because of Zika concerns.

That means Padraig Harrington at No. 159 in the world and Seamus Power (No. 283) would play for the Irish flag in Rio.

“There’s too much of a gray area for me,” Lowry said. “There’s not a 100 percent way of saying you have it or you don’t have it when you get back, so that’s a problem for me and my wife, especially. If I came back from Rio and was able to say 100 percent that I didn’t have it? Then it might be a different story.”

Lowry said he read all the material from the PGA Tour and European Tour and met specialists in Dublin.

“They left it to me,” he said. “But they advised me that if I went to them and said I was going to Rio on a holiday, they would advise me not to go. It was our decision. It was a tough decision to make. Because I wanted to go.”

Others who have withdrawn specifically because of Zika are Jason Day, Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and Marc Leishman. Lowry said if he were single, that “potentially” would change his plans. And if the Olympics were elsewhere?

“One hundred percent, I’d be there. I’d be the first person there,” he said. “I was going for the whole lot and planning to stay on afterward. But I’m recently married, we’re thinking about starting a family and it’s not ideal to be going places like that.”

Four other golfers already have pulled out for reasons beyond Zika, such as a crammed schedule. Lowry believes the threat of Zika has to be considered more for golf than most other sports.

“We do seem to be more at risk,” he said. “We’re on the golf course for six hours a day, seven hours a day. Other athletes are in a stadium. This is just my opinion, but other athletes have been training four and eight years to go to Olympics. I can see why they’re going. It’s the pinnacle of their sport. It’s not the pinnacle of golf yet. It could be in 20 years’ time.”

New York Sports