By Tim Liotta
Ludvig Aberg A Rookie In Name Only
Less than six months into Ludvig Aberg's professional golf career, the only thing left for him to tackle is a major championship.
In eight tournaments since August 1st - 5 on the PGA Tour and 3 on the DP World Tour - the 24-year-old rookie has won twice, missed a third in a playoff, posted one top-5, two top-10s and two top-15 finishes, and was a contributing member to Europe's winning Ryder Cup team.
Only Viktor Hovland has been better. Maybe now, in hindsight, it might not seem so surprising that Hovland and Aberg teamed to thrash World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and reigning PGA Champ Brooks Koepka 9&7 in their Ryder Cup alternate shot match in September.
On Sunday, Aberg won the PGA Tour's 54th and final official event of its 2022-23 season, the RSM Classic at the Sea Island Golf Club on St. Simons Island, GA, posting back-to-back 61s in the third and fourth rounds.
"I think sky's the limit. He's kind of the modern day player," said MacKenzie Hughes, who finished second in the RSM Classic. "I mean, No. 5 (where Aberg took direct aim over a hazard a drove the green on the 407-yard par-4) is probably the true example of that or the prime example of that, just I'm playing left of that bunker and he flies it on the green and two-putts for birdie. So super impressive shot to not only hit it long but to hit that straight.
"Yeah, he's got the whole package. Got a good demeanor, doesn't get too up or down. I'm sure we're going to see a lot of him for the next few years."
En route to his first PGA Tour victory, Aberg tied the PGA Tour 72-hole scoring record of 253, broke the tour's previous record for final 54 holes (previously held by Dustin Johnson) and set a new tour record for lowest closing 36 holes.
"It's just one of those weeks where everything kind of comes together," Aberg said. "I made a few putts here and there that are very important. First two rounds I made a few par putts that kind of keeps the momentum going."
Over 72 holes, Aberg carded 26 birdies and two eagles against one bogey to finish 29-under-par. He played four PGA Fall tournaments in 82-under-par, with the scores in 15 of his 16 rounds in the 60s.
"I felt like I was striking the ball very well all week," he said. "To be honest, I feel like I've been striking the ball quite well over the last couple of months."
Having won the Omega European Masters on the DP World Tour amidst a heap of Ryder Cup questions, and having played his way into a playoff at the Sanderson Farms Championship, Aberg used those experiences as he played Sunday's final round.
"There's a lot of these scenarios running through your head, am I going to win it, am I not going to win," Aberg said. "I feel like last couple -- I've had a lot of experience over the last few months to kind of prepare me for those moments. I try not to get ahead of myself. Even though you're playing with the lead on a golf course like this, you still need to make birdies, you still need to chase.
"I think I was quite calm, but I was obviously very nervous, I can't really deny that. But it's really cool to kind of see myself do that and it gives me a lot of comfort and validity that I can do it."
Although Aberg outwardly presents an even-keeled demeanor as he goes about his business on a golf course, he did have to work to keep himself in a positive frame of mind.
"Sometimes, so my tendency is to get more stuck in the past more so than the future. I tend to get more disappointed and frustrated with myself more so than getting angry. I never get angry, but I do get disappointed and that kind of lingers.
"So I think this week I did a really good job of letting that go. Even though coming down the last couple holes, obviously all these scenarios are running through my head of what's it going to look like on 18, what's Mackenzie going to do, is he going to charge me. I just through the back nine expected him to make a lot of birdies, which forced me to make birdies as well.
"Breathing really helps to kind of calm you down. Then you try to just stay where your feet are really."
At his press conference after Sunday's victory, Aberg was asked what memories stand out from his first month's as a professional.
"I think there's a lot of things that stand out. Obviously this is going to be very high on the list, but I think the week we had in Rome was unbelievable as well," Aberg said. "For me to kind of build a relationship with those guys that obviously I've looked up to for such a long time, to come out on top and to win and to kind of be a part of history, I guess, was really cool. And it's really special to play in that team event and that kind of, to see that whole team dynamic was awesome."
Question: What's the best piece of advice you've received about playing pro golf?
"Best piece of advice is - I think there's a lot that goes into it," he said. "For me, because I was quite good in college, I knew that it was going to translate into pro golf. These guys that I played with in college, they're as good as me. Anyone can come out here and win, I feel like, because the level is so good in college.
"I think one of the most important advice is probably, it sounds so cliché, but you need to play your own game. Kind of like I said with the swing, I don't try to copy anyone, I don't try to emulate anyone, I just try to play myself and trust that it's good enough. I think that's what college golf has made me realize and it's made me think that I can do it. Then obviously it's very, very fortunate for me that it pays off this quickly."
Before turning pro, Åberg was the No. 1-ranked player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking for a total of 29 weeks. Competing for Texas Tech, Aberg won the Ben Hogan Award as the best collegiate player in both 2022 and 2023.
Since August 1, Aberg has jumped all the way up to No. 32 from No. 298 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Sunday's victory and his place in the OWGR's Top-50 qualifies him for the 88th Masters Tournament, just 20 weeks down the calendar, nine days longer than its taken Aberg to get this far.
"I still pinch myself in the morning when I wake up to kind of realize that this is what I do for a job," Aberg said. "It's been so much fun. These
experiences that I've had over the last six months has been beyond my dreams and I'll never forget it."