The 22-year-old American’s pre-Open press conference at Royal Troon was today dominated by questions regarding yesterday’s announcement that he would not be going to the Games in Brazil. It means that all of the so-called ‘Big Four’ have now decided not to participate in golf’s return to the world’s biggest sporting event since 1904, with Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson all previously confirming they would be skipping Rio.
International Golf Federation president Peter Dawson has accused the star no-shows of an “over-reaction” to the health risks posed by the zika virus, but Spieth made a forthright defence of his decision today.
The world No 3 and two-time major winner said: “Listen, this was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life at 22 years old. I can honestly say that.
“This was harder than trying to decide what university to go to, whether to turn professional and leave school. This was something I very much struggled with. I bounced back and forth with, and ultimately a decision had to be made yesterday, and so I made it.
“I’m a huge believer in Olympic golf. I’m a huge believer in playing for your country. It’s the most exciting sporting event for me to watch on TV and to have a chance to be a part of it is something I definitely look forward to trying to do.
“This year I just had to try and weigh a risk that doesn’t present itself every year, and just at the time that I had to make the decision, I just felt this was the right move for me. Not everybody’s going to understand. Nobody’s going to understand what it’s like in my shoes.
“It came down to just a very personal decision that, again, I don’t expect anybody to understand, but trust that I believe I’m making the right decision for myself for my future and for those around me.”
Spieth refused to say what health advice he had received and went on to deny that zika, cases of which have been recorded in his home state of Texas, was the sole reason behind his decision.
“No, that’s personal. I can’t,” he said. “I can tell you that I’m not specifically pinpointing any one thing in my health concerns either. You guys have put that without me saying it. This is health concerns as a whole.
“I had to weigh the risk for the reward, and I felt this year, this opportunity and the amount of the chances there versus being in the States at this point in time is very different.”