While several of the world's top-ranked golfers have cited the Zika virus in withdrawing from the Olympics, South African Jaco van Zyl is skipping two majors to make sure he is fresh for the Rio Games.
Van Zyl is ranked 65th in the world golf rankings, but is in position to play in the Olympics with countremen Branden Grace (No. 10), Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel (22) all announcing they will not travel to Rio de Janeiro due to concerns over the mosquito-born virus. That leaves van Zyl as the top-ranked South African eligible for the men's Olympic field, and he will skip next week's British Open and the PGA Championship in an effort to stay fresh during a long season.
"I expect that there will be a camp that will criticize me for withdrawing from the majors," Van Zyl told South African website Sport24. "Rory (McIlroy) said in a recent press conference that we play four 'Olympics' a year because major titles are what we play for, but I don't agree. To me, the Olympics is the pinnacle of all sporting events.
"The majors will still be there next year, but I don't know if I will get another chance (at the Olympics) in 2020."
McIlroy is among several marquee names skipping the Olympics, along with top-ranked Jason Day and No. 8 Adam Scott in the top 10 alone. No. 2 Dustin Johnson has said he will play, as will fellow American Bubba Watson (No. 5), while third-ranked Jordan Spieth said he is collecting more information on the Zika virus before deciding.
The Olympics begin Aug. 5, with players having until July 11 to decide if they will play.
"I have been at it almost non-stop since I returned to golf last January," van Zyl said of the packed schedule in 2016. "I've had a jam-packed season this year, including a lot of traveling between continents, and then coming home to the added stress of building a house. This was definitely wasn't a decision I took lightly, but something had to give and I decided to forego the majors in July in favor of the Olympics.
"To be part of the first South African team at the Olympics is a massive honor and I owe it to SASCOC, Gary Player, South Africa, Paula (Reto), Ashleigh (Simon) and the player who will be joining me in the men's competition to be at my best."