Matt Chivers looks back on Ludvig Aberg’s unprecedented rise in professional golf, a run from May that’s led to a sensational Ryder Cup call-up
The rise of Ludvig Aberg cannot be overstated.
Even the most outstanding amateurs don’t earn Ryder Cup spots in the same year they turn professional.
The young Swede has established himself as one of Europe’s 12 best players just four months after earning his PGA Tour card via a university exemption.
You wouldn’t associate his poise and consistency with someone just nine starts into his professional career.
Enhancing Europe’s chances of Ryder Cup glory is just the first glimpse of what could be a quite sensational future ahead.
Where did it all begin?
The son of Mia Aberg and Johan Ungesson and the sibling of Linnea Aberg, Ludvig was born in Eslov, Sweden, and kicked off his stellar amateur record by winning the European Boys Team Championship in La Manga in 2017.
Before joining Texas Tech University, he was ranked 37th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and had already reached the last 16 in the US Amateur and the British Amateur.
He won two collegiate events and was ranked third in the WAGR by the end of his sophomore term. He added another two wins in his junior season the following year.
By the time he’d completed four years at Texas Tech, Aberg took all three Player of the Year awards, named after Fred Haskins, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan, becoming just the seventh player in history to do so.
He walked out those college doors holding the record for the lowest single-season scoring average, the lowest season-to-par scoring average, most single-season victories, most overall victories and most career rounds under par.
He and Jon Rahm are the only players to win the Ben Hogan Award more than once and he is the only Texas Tech player ever to win multiple titles in three different seasons.
At this stage, a Ryder Cup bow wasn’t in the question with his youth and inexperience at the elite level, but the event was always in his mind when growing up in Scandinavia.
“Anyone growing up in Sweden, we were watching the Ryder Cup, anyone who was interested in golf,” he said after being announced as a Captain’s pick.
“My earliest memory is 2012 when we won during that Miracle on Sunday. I remember following the Swedes, and I just thought it was so cool to see those guys, and now to actually be in those shoes myself is pretty surreal.”
Finding another level on tour
In May, Aberg became the first-ever player to earn a PGA Tour card through the new exemption criteria of topping the University rankings.
Prior to that, he made three appearances on the tour in 2022, missing the cut in two of them. But fast forward to the Arnold Palmer Invitational this year, an elevated event with a strong field, and he came tied for 24th.
He was ranked 1983rd in the world when playing in this event.
After more top-25 finishes at the RBC Canadian Open and the Travelers Championship, he was drawn to play with European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
“I was so impressed when I played with him in Detroit,” Donald said after selecting Aberg. “He was a cool 9-under through 16 holes like it was nothing. He just went about his business.
“He was calm, collected. He made everything look very simple. He plays with good speed. Doesn’t overcomplicate it. Him and his caddie, Jack, seem to have a good thing going and he hits a lot of quality shots.
“I could tell straight away that good things were going to happen to this kid.”
Playing with the captain was the initial point Aberg got butterflies about playing in the Ryder Cup too, but even he admitted the pace of his climb to the top has come as a shock.
“The first time it really hit me was when I played with Luke in Detroit,” he said. “We got paired in the first two rounds together and I ended up playing pretty well those two days. I felt like I’d done a pretty good job of not thinking about it too much.
“I feel like it’s always been there and it’s always been a motivation for me, obviously growing up in Europe and in Sweden, you want to be part of these teams at some point during your career but I didn’t realise this was going to be this quickly.”
One week later, Aberg came close at the John Deere Classic, but disappointingly missed the cut at the Genesis Scottish Open.
Aberg didn’t play in The Open, nor did he play in the Masters, the US Open, or the PGA Championship. He will be the first-ever Ryder Cup participant to have never competed in a major.
2004: Luke Donald wins the Omega European Masters shortly before making his Ryder Cup debut 🏴— National Club Golfer (@NCG_com) September 5, 2023
2023: Ludvig Aberg wins the Omega European Masters shortly before making his Ryder Cup 🇸🇪 pic.twitter.com/5heBRw8lO6
Earning his Ryder Cup debut
With his selection now a distinct possibility, Aberg headed to Europe to prove himself to Donald. A decision that stamped his ticket to Marco Simone.
In his second start as a professional on the DP World Tour, Aberg came tied for fourth at the D+D Real Czech Masters with rounds of 68, 66, 71 and 66.
He headed to the Omega European Masters in the stunning Swiss mountains – a tournament previously won by Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Donald.
Aberg couldn’t have chosen a DP World Tour event steeped in more history to fully announce himself to the world, carding a final-round 64 to topple former US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick to win his first-ever professional trophy.
His quality is unignorable and he now has one hand on the wheel steering Europe towards the golden trophy they so brutally lost to the USA in 2021 – a matter of months before turning professional.
“I don’t think “fear” is the right word. I think as a competitor, these are the events that you want to be a part of,” he said afterwards.
“You want to have that shot; you want to have that putt to get a point or to win a match or whatever it is, and I’ve been fortunate to be a part of these teams events with the amateur events, which is on a completely different level, and I understand that.
“I’m super excited to get to Rome and I think it will be cool to be part of this team and get to know the guys a lot better, and absolutely I’m up for the challenge.”
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