SPRINGFIELD, N.J. - Who won the Olympic gold medal in men's tennis singles in Seoul in 1988? How about Barcelona in 1992? If you remember then you're either a rabid tennis fan or an Olympics nut.

Tennis was reintroduced as an official Olympic sport in 1988 after a 64-year absence. In the interim, the sport grew globally like wildfire. Wins from ninth-ranked Miloslav Mecir of Czechoslovakia in 1988, then 37th-ranked Marc Rosset of Switzerland in 1992, did not further fuel this fire.

There is a logical contention that, thanks to the reintroduction of golf in Rio, the game will experience a global surge. Massive markets in South America, Africa and Asia remain largely untapped. There also is the reality that top professional athletes spike Olympics television ratings.

There is a misguided contention that the best professional golfers, assembled here at Baltusrol Golf Club for the 98th PGA Championship, somehow have the responsibility to act as golf's global ambassadors. There is an assumption that Ireland's Rory McIlroy, Australians Jason Day and Adam Scott and Americans Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson (and their caddies) should be compelled to fly to a polluted, disease-ridden South American construction site to participate in an event that gains them no money and no FedEx Cup playoff points.

#Rio2016 has as many problems with safety as with sanitation. An athlete from New Zealand said this weekend he was kidnapped by uniformed Rio cops who detained him until he withdrew money from two ATMs to pay his own ransom. An Australian paralympic sailor and official last month said they were robbed at gunpoint.

The IOC and the PGA Tour should be doing backflips that big names are backing out. They should pray every superstar stays home. It will only take one celebrity baby born with a birth defect or one botched kidnapping attempt to sabotage any goodwill built by Rio 2016.

Can you blame the four top-ranked players (and No. 8 Adam Scott) for declining? Would you go yourself? Would you send your child?

Golfers aren't the only athletes saying no to Rio. Steph Curry, the two-time MVP of the NBA, allowed that "several factors" besides injury will keep him from going. The tennis players are quailing, too: women's No. 5 Simona Halep of Romania and men's No. 7 Milos Raonic both bugged out.

Considering the novelty of golf's return to the Olympics and its very public rebuke by the sport's brightest stars, the golf withdrawals speak loudest.

Even media types are passing. On Monday, Sixers analyst Alaa Abdelnaby announced on Twitter that he would not call basketball in Rio . . . and, unlike golfers, basketball players aren't outside for six or seven hours. The risk of contracting the Zika virus might be minimal - it's winter in Brazil so mosquito populations have waned, and the place has been fairly fumigated - but it still exists.

Certainly, Nike would be delighted if Rory won gold and the folks at Under Armour would love to see Spieth on a podium, but at what cost? The Zika virus won't make you very sick for very long, but the FedEx Cup Playoffs begin two weeks after the men's Olympic tournament finishes. Nike and UA don't want their stud horses hobbled down the stretch.

What's happening with men's golf is like what happened with men's tennis in 1988 and 1992: It forced professionals to choose, and it got what it deserved.

The top two players in the world, Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander, contrived to miss tennis' Olympic reboot. Andre Agassi, Jimmy Conners, John McEnroe, Pat Cash, Yannick Noah followed suit.

Wilander claimed an injury kept him from a the exhibition in Korea, though he recovered in time to play a professional event in Italy that same week. So did several other pros. The same situation exists this year. The PGA Tour will conduct the John Deere Classic the week of the Olympics. Spieth secured his tour card for 2014 with a win at the at the 2013 John Deere and he is the defending champion again, although he is declining to play saying it would be inappropriate after pulling out of the Games.

Most tennis players didn't bother with alibis or diplomacy. Most, like McIlroy, considered the prospect of disrupting a professional sport in-season for a made-for-TV exhibition absurd. Both Wilander and Martina Navratilova denigrated the Olympics when compared with Grand Slam events and the Davis Cup, tennis' equivalents of major championships and the Ryder Cup. Navratilova, then ranked No. 2, was an outlier among top women pros, saying tennis was not "a real Olympic sport."

Twenty-eight years later, McIlroy agreed with Navratilova, saying he might not even watch Olympic golf but will watch, "the stuff that matters."

Twenty-eight years later, Spieth said, "I wouldn't hesitate to say the Ryder Cup" is more important. "We're not sure what the Olympics are going to be in golf yet."

For some golfers, golf in the Olympics could not be a bigger deal.

Bubba Watson, at No. 6 the highest-ranked American going to Rio and a fearless good ol' boy, said wild horses couldn't keep him away: "If they would have asked me to be the towel boy, I would have went to the Olympics. But again, my situation is different than everybody else's. I can't have kids. We adopted our kids, and I'm not fearful of crime or anything like that."

The Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects, can be transmitted sexually. Johnson, Day and Scott all had children born in 2015. McIlroy is engaged to be married. The Center for Disease Control advises men exposed to the virus to avoid unprotected intercourse for at least six months.

That isn't stopping England's Danny Willett, No. 9 in the world, who had his first child a week before he won the Masters in April. Sweden's Henrik Stenson, who just won his first major at the British Open, said he has no plans on adding to his three-child brood.

Stenson, No. 5 in the world, and Watson are the top-ranked Olympians and they lead the pack in Olympic enthusiasm. That's probably because Stenson is 40 and Watson will be 38 in November. This is likely to be their best, and perhaps only, chance to play in the Olympics.

The same is not true for Day (28), Johnson (32), Spieth (23 on Wednesday) and even McIlroy (27). They see several more Olympics in their futures.

"I feel very passionately about golf in the Olympics. I do think that it's a very special event for the game of golf," Spieth said. "Like tennis struggled early to get guys to go, I think this was just a unique year that will certainly change in four years' time."

He's probably right. Andre Agassi, the American icon, was ranked ninth but had star power when he won in Atlanta in 1996. Rafael Nadal of Spain was No. 2 when he took gold in Beijing in 2008. Tennis reached a high-water mark in London in 2012, when Great Britain's No. 4 Andy Murray beat Swiss No. 1 Roger Federer at Wimbledon.

Despite that star-spangled final some tennis pros still refuse to play in the Olympics, opting rather to conserve their energies for the ATP World Tour.

McIlroy appears to be of this mindset. He also appears to be in the minority.

The tee sheet will be full of the biggest names for #Tokyo2020.

@inkstainedretch