McDowell confirms he won’t be replacing Rory at the Olympic Games

Graeme McDowell. Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Graeme McDowell. Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Graeme McDowell has confirmed he will not be replacing Rory McIlroy in the Irish team for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio.

McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion, was next in line for qualification for the Irish team following the withdrawal of McIlroy, who cited concerns over the Zika virus.

However, the 36-year-old insists he had already made a decision not to go to Rio de Janeiro as his wife is pregnant and due to give birth around the same time as the Olympic Games in Brazil.

He released a statement last Thursday confirming that he made the choice to stay in the US with his family around the time of the birth of his second child “months ago”.

It follows the shock announcement by McIlroy who said he would make himself unavailable for selection over his concerns regarding Zika.

The current world number four was set to represent Ireland at the Rio Games.

In the statement released by McDowell on Twitter on Thursday, he said: “I woke yesterday morning to the news that Rory McIlroy had withdrawn from the Irish Olympic Golf team, putting me in line for an automatic spot on the team.

“As many within golf will know my wife Kristin is pregnant and is due to have our second child just a couple of weeks after the Olympic Golf competition concludes.

“I made the decision many months ago, before I was on the team, that I would not play or travel outside the US, where I and my family live, in the weeks running up to the birth.

The Portrush-born golfer added: “Unfortunately I will therefore not be available to replace Rory on the team.

“I have informed Paul McGinley and the Olympic Council of Ireland of my decision.”

In the absence of both McIlroy and McDowell, three-time major winner Padraig Harrington is set to represent Ireland this summer alongside Shane Lowry.

The Olympic Council of Ireland said it respected his decision.

Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke has thrown his support behind Rory McIlroy’s decision to pull out of this summer’s Olympics because of concerns about the Zika virus.

Clarke, speaking at the Costa Smeralda Invitational, said personal choices should be respected after his fellow Northern Irishman McIlroy withdrew from the Rio games this week.

Despite the World Health Organisation stating that Zika, a mosquito-spread virus linked to brain defects in newborn babies, posed a ‘very low risk’ to participants other golfers are refusing to travel and some, including Australia’s world No1 Jason Day, are considering their options.

“Rory is a young man who’s going to get married later this year and looking towards having children,” said Clarke.

“If the Zika virus had been around a little bit longer and was understood a little bit more, or there was a cure, that would maybe ease some of the fears.

“While it is the Olympics and there’s a gold medal at stake, family must come first. There has been some stick for those who have pulled out but you must respect their choice.”