South Africa’s Jaco Van Zyl has defied conventional wisdom by withdrawing from two major championships this month – in order to be in the best possible shape for the Olympic Games, which he describes as “the pinnacle of all sporting events.”
Van Zyl has returned home to South Africa following last week’s Open de France in order to recharge his batteries for the first Olympic golf competition in 112 years.
And that led him to the conclusion that he should withdraw from The Open Championship at Royal Troon next week and the US PGA Championship at Baltusrol at the end of July to ensure he arrives in Rio in the best possible mental and physical condition.
Speaking from his home in Benoni, the golfer currently at No.24 on the Olympic Golf Rankings, said he would be spending the next five weeks working on his game in preparation for the Olympic Games golf, which tees off on August 11.
“I was really starting to feel the effects of a very packed schedule at the French Open last week,” Van Zyl explained.
“I have been at it almost non-stop since I returned to golf last January. I’ve had a jam-packed season this year, including a lot of travelling between continents, and then coming home to the added stress of building a house. This definitely wasn’t a decision I took lightly, but something had to give and I decided to forego the majors in July in favour of the Olympics.
“I expect that there will be a camp that will criticize me for withdrawing from the Majors, but I feel very passionate about golf’s debut at the Olympics. Rory (McIlroy) said in a recent press conference that we play four “Olympics” a year because Major titles are what we play for, but I don’t agree.
“To me, the Olympics is the pinnacle of all sporting events and to have the chance to represent Team South Africa on sports’ biggest stage is an honour I don’t take for granted. I need to go to Brazil with the rest of the South African team knowing that I am in peak mental and physical health and that I can give my best over four rounds.
“The Majors will still be there next year, but I don’t know if I will get another chance in 2020. To be part of the first South African team at the Olympics is a massive honour and I owe it to SASCOC, Gary Player, South Africa, Paula (Reto), Ashleigh (Simon) and the player who will be joining me in the men’s competition to be at my best.”
The two-year qualification period for the Olympic Games concluded this weekend, with the 120 eligible players – 60 men and 60 women – identified on the final Rankings on July 11. The National Olympic Committees will then have to ratify the names of those representing their country no later than Monday, July 18.