DUBLIN: Top British golfer Rory McIlroy has decided not to compete in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games because of concerns over the zika virus.

The world No 4 was in line to be selected for Ireland’s Rio team in the first Olympic golf tournament for 112 years. His choice to represent the Republic rather than Great Britain, as an Ulsterman, had already caused initial controversy.

Earlier this month McIlroy said he had been reassured about the health risk but now he has had a change of heart.

A statement from 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 Janiero.

“After speaking with those closest to me, I’ve come to realise 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.

‘Unwavering support’

“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 endeavour to make my fans and fans of golf proud with my play on the course and my actions off it.”

A statement from the Olympic Council of Ireland read: “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

Adam Scott,Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Marc Leishman and Vijay Singh are other high-profile golfers to rule themselves out of Rio – prompting criticism of the decision by the International Olympic Committee to bring the sport back after more than  century in the first place.