Belfast Telegraph

Graeme McDowell turns down the chance to replace Rory in Rio because baby is due

By Cate McCurry

Graeme McDowell has become the latest high-profile golfer to turn down a chance to play in the Rio Olympics - just a day after Rory McIlroy pulled out of the competition.

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released by McDowell on Twitter yesterday, he said: "I woke yesterday morning to the news that Rory McIlroy had withdrawn from the Irish Olympic Golf team, putting me in line for an automatic spot on the team.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

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