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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.

• Former compatriot hails silver-winning Sabbatini

• Rory regrets “uneducated, impulsive” remarks

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.

• Poulter says caddies “1000%” deserve medals

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.

• Schauffele strikes gold for the USA

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.

author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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