The importance of Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson pledging to play in Rio Olympics

It seems each passing day brings a new golfer exiting stage left from the Rio Olympics. Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and Jason Day are all gone. Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler are currently hedging. And Olympic golf is about to have a massive image problem when none of its stars show up to compete.

None that is except for Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. Both players pledged this week to make the trek to Rio to contend for a gold medal. Garcia made his declaration on Twitter.

Stenson, as he is wont to do, was more humorous in his pledge.

"I'm not afraid of mosquitoes," said Stenson. "I'm more afraid of bears. I've been looking forward to playing in Rio for quite some time. There's different aspects to it; there's being part of the Olympic movement and seeing an Olympic Games from kind of the inside. I think that's going to be an experience of a lifetime for a sporting fan.And then of course if I can go there, compete and compete well, if I make myself and my country happy, that would be something very special. I have a few nice trophies at home and it would be nice to hang an Olympic medal next to them. I think that would look kind of cool."

Patrick Reed -- the first alternate for the U.S. team should Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson or Bubba Watson pull out -- said he's all in if that happens.

"Any time I can wear stars and stripes, I do it," said Reed. "I get the call tomorrow, I'll be on the flight. It doesn't matter to me on where it is, when it is. If I can play for my country, I'm going to go play. I've always dreamed about and thought about being able to play for a gold medal and now that golf is in the Olympics, if I get that opportunity, I'm going to go for it."

It should be noted that Reed is an absolute American hero. I'm convinced he could run a successful presidential campaign at this point. Reed-Spieth 2016? I'm in.

All joking aside, these three bring up good points. Is the Zika virus a real threat? Of course it is. It is one that should be taken lightly? No. But winning a gold medal is a huge deal, and Zika might be getting blown out of proportion. Either way, it's a difficult decision for a group of golfers who are not exactly sure how much a gold medal will mean in 10 years.

What I mean is this: If Zika was a threat in Augusta, Georgia, next year before the Masters, nobody would drop out. They would take the risk head on and deal with the consequences later. But because we don't quite understand yet how big of a deal the Olympics are when it comes to golf, players are bailing ship. That should not be held against them, of course, but good on these guys for making the commitment to go to Rio. Maybe we will have an exciting golf tournament down there after all.

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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