Rory McIlroy Image Credit: AP

Dublin, Rio de Janeiro: Rory McIlroy took a long time to decide he would represent Ireland at the 2016 Rio Olympics but the 27-year-old world number three could now miss golf’s return to the Games after a 112-year absence because of concerns over the Zika virus.

The Northern Irishman had threatened to skip the Olympics as he agonised over representing Great Britain or Ireland in Brazil but after opting for the latter in 2014, the mosquito-borne disease may lead the four-times major winner to avoid the Games.

First detected in Brazil last year, Zika has been linked in that country to more than 1,300 cases of microcephaly, a rare birth defect defined by unusually small heads and something that is clearly a major concern for McIlroy.

“There’s going to be a point in the next couple of years where we (McIlroy and fiancee Erica Stoll) are going to have to think about starting a family,” McIlroy told the British media after winning the Irish Open over the weekend.

“Right now I’m ready to go but I don’t want anything to affect that.”

Three-time major winner Vijay Singh and Australian golfer Marc Leishman have both withdrawn from the Rio Games due to concerns over the virus but McIlroy remains optimistic over his participation as he continues to monitor the situation.

“As it gets closer, I am relishing the thought of going down there and competing for gold,” McIlroy said.

“But I have been reading a lot of reports about Zika and there have been some articles coming out saying that it might be worse than they are saying,” he added.

“I am actually going to get my injections on Wednesday — at least I will be immunised for whatever ... if I do get bitten by a mosquito down there.”

In Rio, hosts Brazil have been drawn alongside rivals Russia in the first phase of the women’s volleyball competition at this year’s Olympic Games, the International Volleyball Federation has said.

Brazil, who have won the past two Olympic gold medals, will also meet Japan, South Korea, Argentina and Cameroon in the opening phase of the tournament. The full schedule detailing the order of matches, dates and times has yet to be released.

“They are two strong groups. In the Olympic Games you can’t choose your opponents,” Brazil coach Ze Roberto said on Monday.

“The first thing we are going to try to do is finish as high as we can in the group. We are working as hard as we can to be at the top of our game in August.”

Brazil eliminated Russia in the quarter-finals of the London 2012 Olympics, turning around their semi-final result at the Athens 2004 Games.