AFP/Wentworth, United Kingdom
Masters champion Danny Willett insists he will not risk the health of his family in pursuit of Olympic glory in Rio de Janeiro in August. The Englishman is keeping a close eye on the spread of the Zika virus in South America and will not compete at the games if he or his family are in any danger.
Rory McIlroy said on Monday that he was also eyeing the situation and Willett is doing the same for the sake of his wife Nicola and his son Zachary, who was born 12 days before the Yorkshireman’s win at Augusta.
The virus is a threat to unborn babies and McIlroy also spoke about his intention to start a family with his fiancé Erica Stoll. “We are monitoring it,” Willett told reporters at Wentworth ahead of the European PGA Championship.
“I had an e-mail from the WHO (World Health Organisation) and we are keeping on top of it. It’s not great, is it? There’s going to be 500,000 people watching the Olympics, and you have 11,000 athletes right in the heart of where it’s at.
“But I’m not a doctor; I don’t know the ins and outs of it, but I’m going to have a sit down with the guys this week and just double-check everything. If it turns out that it would be a massive threat to myself or to Nic or to Little Man (son), then I probably wouldn’t go. Family comes first. But as it stands at the minute, I think everything should be okay. We’re down to go, and hopefully, they can give us some proper guidelines as to how to keep it at bay and keep it under control so that it doesn’t ruin what could be potentially a fantastic Olympics.”
Willett is playing in England for the first time since winning the Green Jacket after missing the cut in the Players’ Championship at Sawgrass and finishing in a tie for 23rd at last week’s Irish Open. The 28-year-old played with McIlroy, and Russell Knox, in the final round at the K Club, in Dublin, and saw the Irish crowd cheer their favourite son to the title.
And Willett is hoping the English crowd can will him to win the biggest tournament held in England this year. He added: “Last week was unbelievable. Again, that’s what you practice for, 18 holes on a Sunday with Rory in Ireland, it was brilliant. The crowd got right behind him. When things weren’t going his way.
I think they helped him get through a couple of the sticky situations that he had on that back nine, and then it was real class down the stretch last week. He hit two of the best shots I think you’ll see on 16 and 18 to kind of keep Russell from really challenging.
“Hopefully we get more of the same this week where there’s a few British lads up there contending and the crowds can get right behind them and hopefully get them over the line.”
The European Tour’s flagship event, which starts tomorrow, was weakened by the withdrawal of world number 10 Justin Rose earlier with a back problem leaving Willett, ranked one place above Rose, as the only player in the world top 20 on view.
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