Cape Town – Don’t be surprised to hear these words at January’s Sony Open: “Now on the tee, from Slovakia, Rory Sabbatini.”
Durban-born Sabbatini last week became an official citizen of Slovakia, according to Slovak newspapers SME and Novy Cas.
Sabbatini’s wife, Martina Stofanikova, is from Slovakia.
The Slovak Golf Association says it is sending proof of citizenship to the International Golf Federation, which would allow the 42-year-old Sabbatini to play under the Slovak flag. It also would make him eligible to play for the Eastern European country in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Sabbatini is No 203 in the world ranking.
The Olympics takes no more than two players from each country – four if they are among the top 15 – until the field size is at 60 players.
Currently, the No 60 player in the Olympic ranking is Dutch golfer Daan Huizing, who is No 340 in the world ranking.
“I believe that I will be successful for Slovak golf and will be a source of inspiration for Slovak youth,” Sabbatini said last Wednesday at the Consulate General of the Slovak Republic in New York.
Rastislav Antal, vice-president of the Slovak Golf Association, said he was proud that Slovakia will have its first PGA Tour player. Sabbatini is fully exempt after finishing 97th in the FedEx Cup last year.
“We believe that Rory will be able to achieve successful results for Slovak golf and can raise the interest of our public and our children to become actively interested in golfing,” Antal said.
Sabbatini, 42, has six PGA Tour wins to his name, including the Nissan Open, Crowne Plaza Invitational, Byron Nelson Championship and the Honda Classic.
Sabbatini also teamed up with Trevor Immelman to win the 2003 World Cup of Golf. Sabbatini played on five other SA World Cup teams, as well as the 2007 Presidents Cup in Montreal, Canada.
He has played in 45 Majors, but only made 18 cuts. His best finish (a tie for second) came at the 2007 Masters.
According to the official PGA Tour statistics (which already reflect Sabbatini as a Slovakian citizen) he has won $ 31 426 818 (R454 601 493) in prize money alone.