‘Now we simply have to take the ‘next man up’ mentality. No doubt in my mind we can still deliver a medal,’ Gary Player said in a statement released on Friday.
The World Golf Hall of Famer was responding to the withdrawal of Branden Grace from Olympic contention, after the world number 11 followed in the footsteps of Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.
Player was scathing when the initial withdrawals came through in April. ‘I would have given anything to play in the Olympics,’ the nine-time major champion said in April. ‘South Africa had a great team, but now obviously, it will not be as good.’
The Black Knight has a famous zest for life and will captain the team headed for Rio de Janeiro in August. He was not his fiery self in his Friday latest statement.
‘Branden called and told me of his decision to pull out of the Olympics. Obviously I am very disappointed, but I respect his reasoning. The Games are bigger than any one person, it’s a celebration of sport worldwide. But like Louis and Charl, his presence will be missed by the South African team,’ he said.
Grace withdrew due to fears of the Zika virus, citing family concerns as the main consideration. He joins Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy in skipping the Olympics.
Player was understanding of the top-ranked South African’s position, but will take a second-tier team to compete for Olympic glory.
‘Branden is very talented and has a long career ahead, so I respect his decision to look out for the best interests of his family,’ Player said. ‘I certainly was not going to try to influence his decision in any way. It’s not my place. I want what is best for Branden, his family, and South Africa.’