By Mark Etheridge
Golfer Jaco van Zyl (pictured left) buzzed into Rio a few days ago and was quick to swat away any fears of the much maligned mosquito-born Zika virus.
After many of the world’s top golfers had opted to skip the Rio Olympics, including South Africans Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace, the rainbow nation will now be represented by Van Zyl and Brandon Stone.
But Van Zyl, who hails from the East Rand in Gauteng, showed no fear on Monday.
‘To be honest when we got our connecting flight to Rio in Sao Paulo, as the cabin doors closed I did see a mosquito hovering inside!
‘But since then I haven’t even seen a mosquito so it’s all good my side. Hey, I’m from Africa and we have seen it all back home.’
Van Zyl opted to take an extended time off to ready himself for Rio, and last played four weeks ago.
‘I missed the Open and the PGA to prepare. My last tournaments were in Germany and France. At the most recent one, the Alstom Open, I ended 49th after two nice first two rounds, a bit like in Germany as well.
‘Then I took two weeks off and since then I’ve been slaving away for five hours a day and that’s been purely golf.
‘Mainly on my short game, as I’ve been hitting everything else nicely and didn’t need to change that. I can already feel an improvement and I’m also mentally fresh. Now I just want to go out and play.’
Van Zyl got to walk nine holes of the Olympic course on Monday ‘just with a wedge and putter’ and was encouraged.
‘The greens are quite undulating and in some cases I reckon it would be almost better to miss the greens and then hit a good area. Also, the wind we experienced today wasn’t the prevailing wind so we’ll just have to see.
‘The good thing is that this course will be new to every golfer here so it’s a real and proper challenge for us all.’
Sixty men’s golfers will tee up on Thursday and Van Zyl has been paired with Finland’s Mikko Ilonen and Canada’s David Hearn.
Stone will go off slightly earlier, with Mexican Rodolfo Cazaubon and Bernd Wiesburger of Austria.
Format in operation is 72 holes of individual stroke play with no cut although there’s the possibility of play-offs to determine gold, silver and bronze medals.