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Golf's gender divide over Rio and Zika

NZN 29/06/2016 Mark Lamport-Stokes

When it comes to golfers and their interest in competing at this year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, a curious gender divide is emerging which, at first glance, is counter-intuitive.

While world No.1 Jason Day and fourth-ranked Rory McIlroy are among several big names who have already opted out of Rio, not a single women's player has yet withdrawn from global sport's showpiece.

Both Day and McIlroy have cited Zika fears as their prime reason for pulling out, saying they were unwilling to put either themselves or their families at risk from a mosquito-borne virus that can cause crippling birth defects.

Yet even though pregnant women appear to be most vulnerable to the virus, LPGA players have enthusiastically embraced golf's return to the Olympics after an absence of more than a century.

For Lydia Ko, the top-ranked women's golfer, the thrill of being part of the Olympics trumps any fear over Zika.

"It's more important that we enjoy Rio and we're excited about it and all the girls I've talked to, that's kind of the response," said the New Zealander.

"We're all excited to go to Brazil, represent our countries and be there amongst the other Olympians."

According to a recent Sports Illustrated survey, 40 per cent of LPGA Tour players said they would prefer to win a gold medal in Rio than any of this year's four major golf championships.

In contrast, 29 per cent of PGA Tour players expressed a preference for winning gold over the season's final major, the PGA Championship, and that percentage would likely have been lower if the Masters, US Open and British Open had factored in.

Surprisingly, 62 per cent of PGA Tour players rated the Players Championship, which is not a major, above Olympic success.

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