Why Rory Sabbatini is now playing for Slovakia instead of South Africa
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Why Rory Sabbatini is now playing for Slovakia instead of South Africa

South African pro golfer Rory Sabbatini now represents the country of Slovakia -- at least as far as golf and the Olympics are concerned. That's going to be confusing for a lot of people because Sabbatini has been a high-level professional golfer for 20 years, and he's always played for the country of his birth.

However, Rory Sabbatini is now playing for Slovakia because he thinks it will get him into the 2020 Olympic men's golf tournament in Tokyo.

The Associated Press reported Sabbatini acquired his official Slovakian citizenship the week before Christmas 2018, citing reports from the Slovak newspapers SME and Novy Cas. Sabbatini's decision to become Slovakian at 42 years old isn't entirely out of the blue. It's not random people who suddenly start competing in a sport for Qatar. Sabbatini's wife, Martina Stofanikova, is from Slovakia.

"I am very glad that I could come to the New York Consulate in Slovakia and participate in a festive celebration, I believe I will be successful in Slovakian golf and will be a source of inspiration for Slovak youth," Sabbatini said after taking his Slovakian citizenship on Dec. 20, 2018.

"We are delighted that Rory has acquired Slovak citizenship within the deadline set by the International Golf Federation for its potential participation in the Tokyo Olympics, and will qualify as a Slovak athlete," said Slovakian Golf Association Vice President Rastislav Antal, who hopes for a European Tour event in the future.

Sabbatini will compete in the 2020 Olympics

The Slovak Golf Association will send proof of Sabbatini's new citizenship to the International Golf Federation, which means Sabbatini will now be introduced at PGA Tour events as being from Slovakia. Instantly, Sabbatini is the highest-ranked Slovakian player in the Official World Golf Ranking.

The change in citizenship will give Sabbatini a chance to compete in the 2020 Olympics. Under the Olympic golf tournament format, the 60-player men's field is comprised of as many as the two highest-ranked players from the highest-ranked countries in the Official World Golf Ranking by the cut-off date. If a country has more than two players in the top 15 in the OWGR, a maximum of the four highest-ranked players in the top 15 can make the field.  Sabbatini would make the field now.

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Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

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