While many of the top international players in golf have withdrawn from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, all four qualified Americans had kept their names in the field. That changed at 11:30 p.m. on Friday night, when Golf Channel broke the news that reigning U.S. Open champion and the favorite for next week's Open Championship, Dustin Johnson, is pulling out of the games.
Like the many superstar golfers who withdrew before him, Johnson cited the Zika virus threat as the primary reason he was taking the Olympics off his schedule.
At last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Johnson finished a press conference stating that he planned on going to Rio. But earlier he made some vague statement that he was waiting for answers on a couple of things, but the intention was to still play.
Still waiting to hear back on a couple things that all four of us had a concern about, but we'll have some answers early next week.
I mean, at this point I'm going to go to the Olympics and represent my country, and I'm looking forward to it.
DJ's reference to the "four of us" includes the other Americans qualified -- Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, and Bubba Watson. He said the primary concerns of the group centered around security questions, and Zika only came up briefly in a meeting with officials.
Patrick Reed, who was adamant that he would go play wherever and whenever if he's asked to wear the stars and stripes, would fill DJ's spot. Here's Reed earlier this week at the Scottish Open when asked about the possibility of getting a last-minute spot on the team:
Well, I can't catch Rickie at the end of this week. Mathematically, it's impossible. So our team is set on the four. If one of them happened to pull out, then I will definitely be playing.
Any time I can wear stars and stripes, I do it. I get the call tomorrow, I'll be on the flight. It doesn't matter to me on where it is, when it is. If I can play for my country, I'm going to go play.
Bubba, Rickie, and Spieth are all within the same age range of DJ and Zika could be a concern. Bubba and Rickie's recent statements would indicate they're committed. Spieth has equivocated at times when asked about the Olympics in press conferences, but had still planned to play.
The Americans will still be the heavy favorites, but Johnson is the hottest golfer in the world right now, and while Reed is a top-15 player it's still a loss. Johnson joins other world-class players such as No. 1 Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Shane Lowry, and Branden Grace, among others, in pulling out of the first golf competition at the Olympics in 112 years.