SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France (AP) — Rory McIlroy has no regrets about deciding not to go to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics because of concerns over the Zika virus, saying he and other golfers do not consider Olympic golf to be the "pinnacle" of their sport compared to playing in majors.
"We dream of winning Claret Jugs and we dream of winning green jackets," the four-time major winner said Wednesday. "Whether that makes golf look insular in any way ... it's just the way it is."
Last week, McIlroy became one of the most high-profile sports stars to opt out of the Rio Games.
The 27-year-old Northern Irishman said this month that he and fiancee Erica Stoll may consider starting a family within a couple of years. Zika is a mosquito-borne virus which has been linked to severe birth defects and possible neurological problems in adults.
"I've said to people I have four Olympic Games (major championships) a year," McIlroy said ahead of the French Open golf tournament near Paris. "That's my pinnacle. That's what I play for. That's what I'll be remembered for."
Other golfers to pull out of Rio are top-ranked Jason Day and U.S. Open runner-up Shane Lowry; former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell; Australian pair Marc Leishman and Adam Scott; South Africans Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel; and Fiji's Vijay Singh.
"Some people argue that it would have been better to send amateurs there, but the whole reason that golf is in the Olympics is because they wanted the best players," McIlroy said. "But unfortunately with where it is this year, people just aren't comfortable going down there and putting themselves or their family at risk."
McIlroy added that "if the Olympic Games were in most other cities ... you wouldn't find as many people not wanting to go."
American cyclist Tejay van Garderen is another sportsman to cite Zika as the reason behind not going to Rio. Basketball star Stephen Curry has dropped out of the games, not specifically citing Zika but noting that "other factors" played a role in the decision.
McIlroy thinks golf is not affected the same way.
"I don't think it's embarrassing for the game," he said. "Because most other athletes dream their whole lives of competing in the Olympics, winning an Olympic Gold, and we haven't."
He announced in April that he was skipping the Bridgestone Invitational to instead play at the French Open for the first time since 2010. He is playing here as part of his preparations to win the British Open for the second time after triumphing in 2014.
The 100th edition of the French Open is being held at Le Golf National, which hosts the Ryder Cup in 2018. Play begins Thursday.