How Rory Sabbatini Qualified For The Olympics

The six-time PGA Tour winner is representing Slovakia at Tokyo 2020. Here's why...

How Rory Sabbatini Qualified For The Olympics
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The six-time PGA Tour winner is representing Slovakia at Tokyo 2020. Here's why...

How Rory Sabbatini Qualified For The Olympics

Slovakia has never been known as a golfing nation but the Eastern European country will have a golf presence at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The country will be represented by Rory Sabbatini, a former World No.8 and six-time PGA Tour winner, who will tee it up at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

South African-born Sabbatini, who holds UK and US passports, changed his citizenship in 2019 in a move that was widely speculated to be Olympics related.

He has never confirmed this but has commented that his citizenship change was to help golf in the country, and he will certainly be doing that by representing Slovakia on the world stage.

Sabbatini's wife is Slovakian and his wife's cousin is the vice president of the Slovak Golf Association.

“To support her, to support our stepson, getting my Slovak citizenship is important to them as well as her getting her US citizenship,” Sabbatini said at the time.

“The added benefit was her cousin is the director of golf development in Slovakia and we thought this was an opportunity to bring more kids into the game of golf because they really haven’t had exposure on a national stage to follow golf.

“This decision was never made to play in the Olympics. This decision was made to support my wife and stepson and to open the door for golf development in Slovakia.

“I didn’t even know I would be eligible.”

The 45-year-old is eligible for the Games due to the qualification system where 60 players tee it up based on the Official World Golf Ranking.

Related: The big name golfers missing from the Olympics

Teams are allowed a maximum of four players (if there are four in the world's top 15) but most nations have just one or two in each of the men's and women's tournaments.

The world rankings are very American-heavy so many players further down the list have qualified from outside of the main golfing nations.

If Sabbatini remained a South African citizen on the golf scene he would not have qualified, with the likes of Louis Oosthuizen, Garrick Higgo, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Dylan Fittelli, Branden Grace, Erik Van Rooyen and many others ahead of him in the OWGR.

The World No.197 is one of only two Slovak golfers inside the world's top 1,000, with Petr Valasek ranked 851st.

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016. He graduated in Sports Journalism in 2016 and currently manages the Golf Monthly news, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He has also covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as three Open Championships including at Carnoustie in 2018 when he was inside the ropes with Tiger Woods. He has played 31 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Alwoodley. He currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 4-6. His golfing highlight is making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, and he has made one hole-in-one.

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Honma TR20

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

2 iron: Mizuno MP-18 MMC Fli-Hi

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x