Rory Sabbatini now playing for Slovakia

Published 2:28 a.m. ET Jan. 11, 2019

HONOLULU (AP) — Rory Sabbatini has been playing the Sony Open the last 20 years, and this one was different before he hit a shot.

Start with the flag stitched onto his golf bag.

And when he stepped to the first tee Thursday, he heard words never uttered on the PGA Tour.

“From Bratislava, Slovakia, Rory Sabbatini.”

Golf fans know him as the 42-year-old South African with plenty of spunk and enough game to have won six times on the PGA Tour, who played in the Presidents Cup and once reached as high as No. 8 in the world.

That changed during a ceremony in New York last month, when Sabbatini became a naturalized citizen of Slovakia, home of his wife, Martina.

He now plays under the Slovak flag.

“Just to support her and to support our son,” Sabbatini said. “Getting Slovak citizenship is important to them, just as important as her getting her U.S. citizenship. So I’m supporting her, and the added benefit was her cousin is the director of golf development in Slovakia, and we thought this was an opportunity.”

One benefit is the Olympics, though Sabbatini said that wasn’t his primary motive.

After a ceremony at the Consulate General…

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