Rory McIlroy will not compete at this 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro due to fears he will be affected by the Zika virus.

McIlroy, ranked number four golfer in the world, may have found a way to avoid a clash as he chose Ireland over Britain but was seemingly not totally at ease with that decision.

The Zika virus has been linked to brain defects in newborn babies. The 27-year-old golfer said last month that he and his fiancée, Erica Stoll, may consider starting a family “in the next couple of years.”

In a statement announcing his decision to pull out of the Olympics, McIlroy said “After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for this summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

"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."

McIlroy: Fiancee Erica brings 'balance' to golf life:

— World Golf News (@worldgolfnews1) June 17, 2016
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika epidemic to be a global emergency in February 2016. The majority of people infected with the virus will have no symptoms but some will have mild illness with symptoms including a rash, fever and headache. The serious complications are not common, but can cause microcephaly, where babies are born with abnormally small heads due to the fact their brains have not developed properly.

Why men need to be afraid of Zika too:

— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) June 18, 2016
Pregnant women have already been advised not to travel to Rio. However, the WHO have predicted the risk of the Zika virus in August would drop, due to the fact that it is winter in South America.

In May McIlroy told the BBC “There’s going to be a point in time over the next couple of years where we’re going to have to start thinking about starting a family.”

He added "I have been reading a lot of reports about Zika and there have been some articles that have come out saying that it might be worse than they are saying…So, I have to monitor that situation."

McIlroy is just one of a number of high-profile golfers to pull out with Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Marc Leishman and Vijay Singh having already said they will not travel to the 2016 Olympics.

The Olympic Council of Ireland released a statement saying “The OCI is extremely disappointed not to be taking Rory with us to Rio. However, as we have always said, it is down to the individual and of course we respect his decision, which he has taken for personal reasons.

“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.”

The Rio 2016 International Olympic Committee, with guidance from the World Health Organization, has resisted calls for the games to be postponed.

The IOC statement continued “The OCI and our medical team have taken our lead from the IOC on the Zika situation, as we do in all matters. They have provided us with every assurance and we have total confidence that the Games will be safe for all athletes.

“We are now following the IOC's recommendations, as well as the recommendations of the Rio 2016 organizers, the World Health Organization and national health authorities, to ensure that Team Ireland's athletes are kept fully updated with the latest and best advice and that they are equipped to take all necessary precautions.”

Read more: For the first time ever, Ireland is sending a female gymnast to the Olympics

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