AIG Women’s Open 2023: Preview
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Sweden’s Ryder Cup rookie Ludvig Aberg is following in the footsteps of Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland, while Luke Donald has called him a “generational talent”. Here’s why.
He carded a final round 64 overhauling world No. 8 Matt Fitzpatrick and fellow countryman Alexander Bjork with four birdies in his last five holes. It was the last of two highly pressurised qualification events for the Ryder Cup, following the D+D Real Czech Masters the week before where he finished T4.
Delivering when he needed to despite his inexperience, Team Europe captain Luke Donald chose him as one of his Ryder Cup wildcards alongside Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Shane Lowry and fellow rookies Sepp Straka and Nicolai Hojgaard for the 12-man team to face the United States in Rome.
They join Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Victor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick and Robert MacIntyre who claimed the six automatic qualification spots for the biennial match at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club from September 29 to October 1.
Aberg has now reached the summit in men’s team golf quicker than Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth – just 77 days after hitting his first shot in professional golf. Even quicker than Sergio Garcia, who is the only other golfer to play the Ryder Cup the year he turned pro. He will also be the first player in Ryder Cup history to have never played in a Major championship.
Donald has been surprised by Aberg’s swift ascent in the game, admitting he wasn’t really aware of him until this year. Back in July, Aberg shot 65 and 67 playing alongside Donald in the first two rounds of the Rocket Mortgage Classic where the young star finished in a respectable T40. A week later he finished T4 at the John Deere Classic in only his fourth start as a pro.
“Everyone who has played with Ludvig sees a very bright future,” Donald said: “His temperament is obviously part of the reason he is so successful. He is an amazing driver of the golf ball. I was so impressed when I played with him in Detroit. He was calm, collected. He made everything look very simple. He is a generational player, he’s going to be around a long time and he’s going to do amazing things.”
The first thing that catches the eye about Aberg, apart from his slender 6 feet 3 inch frame, in his swing, particularly with the driver. It looks simple, effortless and repeatable, yet he is long and accurate.
Incredibly, since playing his first tournament as a pro at the RBC Canadian Open in June, Aberg has been the best driver in the world, leading Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler in Strokes Gained: Off the tee.
Justin Rose, a five-time Ryder Cup player, has been blown away by the young gun and provided an appraisal that would make Team USA sit up and listen.
“He’s one of the those players that has a very impressive game to the point where in the evening sometimes, if you haven’t watched any golf coverage, you click on and go to his shot tracker. You go: ‘Oh my God, he hit it 340 yards down the middle of that fairway and flicked a wedge in.’” said Rose.
“You follow him with a bit more curiosity because he tends to have a couple of weapons that are not necessarily at everybody’s disposal.”
Rose also praised the young Swede’s Bjorn Borg-like cool demeanour, adding: “He has shown the second weapon of late, calmness under pressure. We have been talking about him for the Ryder Cup for a long time relative to his career. He has almost played 75% of his professional career with the pressure of trying to make a Ryder Cup team.”
Aberg was born and raised in Eslov, a small town in Sweden, and grew up playing Eslov Golf Club. He had success as a junior winning the Swedish Teen Tour Order of Merit in 2016 and was awarded the Annika Sorenstam Trophy. In 2019 he joined Texas Tech to play collegiate golf in the United States.
During his time there he won a program-record eight times. In May 2022 he was named the Ben Hogan Award winner as the best college player in the U.S. He was also the top-ranked player in the PGA Tour University points standings, which earned him a spot at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic on the DP World Tour in January 2023, where he shot an opening-round 65 in his Rolex Series debut to share the lead after the first round.
Later in 2023, before turning professional, Aberg defended his college Prestige and Big 12 titles and also won the Valspar Collegiate and NCAA Norman Regional. In May this year he then won the Ben Hogan Award again, becoming only the second player to be a two-time winner after Rahm (2015-16). Hovland won the award in 2019.
Aberg then made history as the first player to earn direct access to the PGA Tour via collegiate merit, finishing No. 1 on the 2023 PGA Tour University Ranking. He then turned pro in June, ending his amateur career ranked top of the World Amateur Golf Rankings.
When recently asked whether he could end up being top of the world rankings in professional golf, he said with a calm confidence: “Oh absolutely. For sure.” Before his maiden win in Switzerland, he was ranked 200th in the Official World Golf Rankings. He has since gone up 110 places.
Team Europe will be up against it in Rome, hoping to avenge their resounding 19-9 defeat to the Americans at Whistling Straits in 2021. The stage is set for Aberg to show the world what he’s made of.