Rory McIlroy pulls out of Rio 2016

The four-time major winner has cited Zika fears as his reason to withdraw

McIlroy, Golf, Olympics, Zika, Rio 2016

Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Rory McIlroy will not be representing Ireland at the Olympic Games this summer.

The World number four announced the news on Wednesday morning, citing fears over the Zika virus as his reason for withdrawing.

"After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for this summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero", McIlroy confirmed in a statement.

"After speaking with those closest to me, I've come to realize that my health and my family's health comes before anything else. Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take."

"I trust the Irish people will understand my decision. The unwavering support I receive every time I compete in a golf tournament at home or abroad means the world to me."

"I will continue to endeavor to make my fans and fans of golf proud with my play on the course and my actions off it."

The Olympic Council of Ireland have reacted to McIlroy's withdrawal by expressing they were "extremely disappointed" by his decision.

"Rory was set to be one of the big stars of Rio 2016, but now there is an opportunity for another Irish golfer to take up the chance to become an Olympian and participate in golf’s historic return to the Olympic Games after a 112-year absence."

Golf returns to the Olympics this summer for the first time since 1904. Players such as Adam Scott and Vijay Singh have already pulled out of the tournament, with the Fijian openly stating the Zika virus was his reason for not competing.

Shane Lowry will now be expected to lead the team in Brazil in August. Graeme McDowell or Padraig Harrington look set to take Ireland's second place in the competition.