It was one of the more unusual sights of this or indeed any other year.
Rory Sabbatini, a man who has represented his native South Africa for the vast majority of his career, both as an amateur and a professional, winning an Olympic silver medal – for Slovakia.
The six-time PGA Tour winner – a World Cup winner for South Africa in 2003 – changed allegiances from the country of his birth to his wife's home nation in January 2019. His motivation, he says, was to qualify for the Olympics and, in so doing, raise the profile of golf in the former Czech state.
To that end, mission accomplished. The 45-year-old scythed through the field on the final day in Tokyo, carding an Olympic record round of 61 to win the silver medal, an achievement that made front page news back in his adopted homeland.
Pravda, one of the biggest newspapers in Slovakia, led with an image of Sabbatini on its homepage on Sunday, headlined “Zázrak v Tokiu!” – “A Miracle in Tokyo!”
In addition to receiving a medal, Sabbatini also climbed 92 places on the Official World Golf Ranking to 111th.
His heroics in the Japanese capital have also prompted some speculation that he could mount a late charge for next month’s European Ryder Cup team. For example, were he to maintain his good run of form, qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs which get underway in a fortnight at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey and finish high up the standings, could European captain Padraig Harrington really overlook him for one of his picks?
As it turns out, yes, he could. According to a European Tour spokesperson, Sabbatini – part of the International team that contested the Presidents Cup in 2007 – could play in the Ryder Cup… just not this year.
To be eligible for consideration, he would have to be a European Tour member, which, currently, he’s not.
He also doesn’t have the option of joining the tour today in order to become immediately eligible. Like all other would-be Ryder Cuppers, he would have had to be a European Tour member when qualifying began on September 19, 2019.
So, it’s a no for this year… but 2023 in Italy?
That’s down to Rory.