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Gary Player has given his support to fellow South Africa-born golfer Rory Sabbatini in his bid to qualify for Europe’s Ryder Cup team.

Sabbatini, 43, could become the first golfer to play against the USA in both the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup, after admitting he’s interested in being part of Padraig Harrington’s European team for next year’s match at Whistling Straits.

The six-time PGA Tour winner changed his citizenship at the start of the year from South Africa to Slovakia, the home country of his wife and stepson. 

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As a citizen of a European country, Sabbatini is eligible to play in the Ryder Cup – and, during last week’s Italian Open, he admitted that’s on his radar, saying that “there’s potential”. He added that he has discussed the possibility with Euro captain Padraig Harrington.

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Opinion is divided over whether or not Sabbatini should be eligible to play in the biennial competition, not least because he has previously represented South Africa as both and amateur and a professional. 

One man supporting him, however, is golf legend Player. 

The nine-time major winner captained Sabbatini in the 2007 Presidents Cup when he qualified to play for the International team and returned just a half-point from four matches in a 19½-14½ defeat to the USA.

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He believes that Sabbatini is perfectly entitled to have a crack at Ryder Cup qualifying.

“People and professional sportsman have changed nationalities for a long, long time and then successfully represented their newly adopted country in a myriad of endeavours,” Player told bunkered.co.uk

“I wish Rory nothing but the very best in his quest to play in the Ryder Cup and will follow his progress with interest.”

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Should he qualify for the team, Sabbatini would become the first Slovakian national to play in the Ryder Cup. 

Since Continental Europeans were made eligible for the match in 1979, players from seven different countries on the continent have taken part in the Ryder Cup: Spain, Denmark, Belgium, France, Sweden, Germany and Italy.

The 2020 Ryder Cup takes place at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin from September 25-27.


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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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