Rory Sabbatini revealed "he felt bad for those who chose not to go" to the Olympics, after he secured a silver medal in Tokyo.
Rory Sabbatini on Olympic Experience – “I Feel Bad For Those Who Chose Not To Go”
When the field was announced for the Olympics, you would have imagined that the likes of Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey would be the favourites to secure a medal for their nations.
But, thanks to a record-breaking final round of 61, it was Slovakia’s, Rory Sabbatini, who delivered a stunning silver medal.
Leading up to the event, a lot had been said about players pulling out of the Olympics, with Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, Sergio Garcia and Tyrrell Hatton among a few who decided not to feature in Tokyo.
After the dust settled, Sabbatini revealed in an interview with Golf Monthly that he “felt bad for those who chose not to go, with it being an opportunity that you might have once in a lifetime and you have to go and do it.”
Sabbatini, who was born and raised in South Africa, now lives in South Florida. So how did he gain Slovakian citizenship?
Well, after he married his wife, Slovakian, Martina Stofanikova, her cousin, Rastislav Antala, who was then the vice president of the Slovak Golf Association, now president, floated the idea to his cousin-in-law. As a result, Sabbatini gained citizenship at the end of 2018.
“The week before we met up in Slovakia to do all the pre-Olympic stuff and it was kind of awkward. I felt like a bit of an outsider but the members of the team were absolutely fantastic.
“They embraced and encouraged me, it was an incredible outpouring of support. When I walked back into the team room with the medal they said that I had screwed up their day as they were planning on having a relaxing day and we did a lot of celebrating that night.
“To see the emotional rollercoaster that all these athletes go on, training four years for this make-or-break moment and to see either their success or downfall is quite eye-opening. We weren’t allowed to watch other events but we would get together in the team room to support the other members so we had such a great experience as a unit.”
On the final day, Xander Schauffele claimed the gold with both Sabbatini and CT Pan, who were paired together, receiving the silver and bronze medals, with Pan coming through a thrilling seven-man playoff to secure the final podium position.
“I definitely didn’t foresee it coming, ironically it’s probably the first time I’ve gone out and really just put no pressure on myself,” said Sabbatini. “I went into it very light-heartedly. The first three rounds I had put so much effort into trying to give myself a chance of ending up on the podium, what with representing Slovakia and the importance of trying to achieve something.
“Then on the Sunday I just played golf. I took it to a place where I’ve never really done as a professional, it was just 23 years too late in doing that!
“It definitely helped playing with CT and him playing so well. It was a fun experience, neither of us have our wives caddying for us normally so it was different and we had a lot of fun. Martina understands what I’m going through on the course, she keeps me a little bit more relaxed, she tries to help me make fun of myself when I make mistakes even though I’m the worst player for doing that.
“Every time you try and make yourself more relaxed you make yourself more stressed, that’s probably been my biggest downfall and I’ve always been extremely hard on myself and I give myself no leeway for any mistakes. That Sunday was a great learning lesson, I made some mistakes and I just bounced back. It was quite an emotional day.”