Graeme McDowell, of Northern Ireland, hits his tee shot on the fourth hole during the final round of the U.S. Open golf championship at Oakmont Country Club on Sunday, June 19, 2016, in Oakmont, Pa. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Gene J. Puskar
June 23, 2016

DUBLIN (AP) Graeme McDowell rejected the chance to replace Rory McIlroy in the Irish Olympic team on Thursday, becoming the latest high-profile golfer to opt out of the Rio de Janeiro Games.

While McIlroy cited concerns about the Zika virus, McDowell said he decided months ago not to leave the United States while his wife expects their second child.

Next in line for Irish selection for the first Olympic golf competition since 1904 is three-time major champion Padraig Harrington.

''I will work very hard over the next few weeks to achieve this selection as it would be a huge honor for me to represent Ireland at the Olympic Games, having played an active role in golf's bid to be re-included in the Olympic Games program,'' Harrington said in a statement.

McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open, said his wife Kristin was due to give birth ''just a couple of weeks'' after the Olympic golf ends on Aug. 20.

''I made the decision many months ago, before I was on the team, that I would not play or travel outside the U.S., where my family and I live, in the weeks running up to the birth,'' McDowell said in a statement on his Twitter account. ''Unfortunately, I will therefore not be available to replace Rory on the team.''

The International Golf Federation responded to the latest Olympic setback by saying it recognizes the ''unique circumstances for Graeme and his family.''

''While we are disappointed that he is not available for the Olympic Games, we sympathize with his position,'' the federation said in a statement.

Marc Leishman of Australia and Charl Schwartzel of South Africa are golfers who have also pulled out of the Olympic tournament. Like McIlroy they both cited Zika.

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