[PHOTO: Getty Images]

Jason Day has made a surprise admission that he made a “mistake” not going to the 2016 Rio Olympics but Australia’s top-ranked male has declared he’ll show up in the green and gold in Paris.

Day was the world No.1 when golf was reintroduced after a 112-year absence to the Olympics in 2016. But the Queenslander was building a family and did not travel to Rio de Janeiro to due fears of the Zika virus.

At the 88th Masters on the final day, Day said he would line up for Australia if eligible for the early August golf event at the games.

“I’ll play. If I’m in, I’ll play for sure, yeah,” Day said at Augusta National after a final-round 69 left him at five over par (293) . “I’m looking forward to it. I think I made a bit of a mistake not going down to Rio, even though part of it was family related. I kind of missed out on that, and I probably should have gone. But if I get the opportunity, I’m looking forward to going.”

Should Day remain eligible – the cut-off is June 17, after this year’s US Open – it would be the 36-year-old’s first Olympics. It could also be his final opportunity to become an Olympian. In 2016, Day withdrew his participation in the Olympics and announced it in a statement. He cited concern for his wife and family as the reason he decided against playing, given the virus is most dangerous to pregnant women, but can be transmitted through sexual contact. The 2016 edition was the first time in a century that golf will be in the Olympics, and Day had pushed for its inclusion. In 2021, Day was not high enough on the world rankings as Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman represented Australia.

Smith and Leishman were the men’s Australian team at the Olympics.

Day putting his hand up is pivotal for the Australian team given he is the top-ranked male player at No.21, and he would take Min Woo Lee, who sits 32nd. Adam Scott is 53rd, however he has declared himself out of the games, while Cameron Smith’s LIV Golf move has seen his world ranking drop to 68.

“No, I don’t,” Day said when asked if he had a preference for a teammate. “Whoever is playing the great, that would be great. I think Min Woo is playing good solid golf too. And obviously Smithy, playing in LIV you don’t get world-ranking points. He needs to play well in the major championships, trying to shoot himself up the leaderboard.”

That teammate would likely be Lee, given Scott is struggling for consistent form and Smith’s LIV Golf does not award Official World Golf Ranking points. Lee was not a professional at the time of the 2016 Olympics, while he missed out on qualifying for the team when the 2021 games were held in Tokyo a year late due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Lee would also be joined by his sister, Minjee Lee, the women’s world No.5 and two-time major champion.

“Yeah, it’s unbelievable,” Lee said when asked about joining Day in Paris. “When you’re a professional, you don’t really get to represent Australia. Obviously every tournament, week in and week out, you represent Australia. When I was an amateur, I got to play for Australia a lot of times, so I do miss putting on the green and gold. Obviously Jason is a playing partner and a teammate. That will be really special. My sister is going to be in there, too, so it will be an unbelievable experience. Hopefully it can stay this way and I can play.”