AUSTRALIA’S Marc Leishman has become the latest golfer to rule himself out of the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio, citing personal reasons in what has been a turbulent year for him.
Leishman joins Adam Scott, South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel; and Fiji’s Vijay Singh on the list of those benching themselves from golf’s return to the Olympics for the first time in more than a century.
Whilst the others have mostly cited scheduling issues, Leishman is more concerned about the health of his wife Audrey, who he almost lost to Toxic Shock Syndrome – a rare and potentially life-threatening illness.
“Last April my children and I almost lost my wife Audrey to Toxic Shock Syndrome. Since then Audrey has been prone to infection and is far removed from 100% recovery of her immune system,” Leishman said.
“We have consulted with Audrey’s physician and due to her ongoing recovery and potential risks associated with the transmission of the Zika virus it was a difficult yet easy decision not to participate.”
PGA of Australia Chief Executive Officer, Brian Thorburn, said he was disappointed when he learned of Leishman’s intention not to compete, but respected his decision to put family first given the circumstances.
“Marc didn’t make his decision without a great deal of thought. Yes, it is very disappointing he won’t be representing Australia in Rio, but we respect his decision to make Audrey’s health and well-being his number one priority,”
“To be in a position where you have to withdraw from The Masters and the Olympics, the two most significant tournaments a Professional can be invited to, all within the space of 12-months, is not a decision made in haste.”
In 2015, Leishman withdrew from The Masters to be by Audrey’s side whose illness at the time was unknown.
Leishman’s decision not to compete in Rio opens the door for another Australian to be selected into a team likely to be headed by Jason Day. With THE PLAYERS, the US Open and the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational still to be played, a number of Australian golfers are within reach of selection.
Golfers eligible, based on their world ranking, include Marcus Fraser who is top of the list as first replacement, followed by Matt Jones and Scott Hend as second and third respectively.
Adam Scott was never that fussed about competing in Rio, with his attention in recent years well and truly on winning Majors.
The Australian Olympic Golf Team will be led by major champion Ian Baker-Finch and will be officially announced on Monday, 11 July.
Baker-Finch lobbies for a team format
Baker-Finch had previously urged Olympic golf officials to change the current format to a team competition in 2020 to help reduce the high-profile withdrawals.
Baker-Finch said the decision by Scott and others to withdraw might have been different had the Olympic format been different than that of existing four-round individual strokeplay for gold, silver and bronze.
“Everyone is saying Adam’s decision weakens the team and all of the negatives but, while we are sending a team to represent Australia, it is an individual event,” Baker-Finch said recently.
The respected golf industry figure would much prefer a team event.
“I think it will make them think about making it a team competition. I’d even love to see it as a mixed team event – that would be awesome.”