Ludvig Aberg’s Remarkable Journey: From PGA TOUR U to the Ryder Cup in Rome

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On the first tee at Detroit Golf Club, Luke Donald didn’t rely on words to convey his message. He was paired for the opening rounds of the Rocket Mortgage Classic with a player who had only recently competed in college. However, Donald intended to make it clear that there were no coincidences when it came to Ryder Cup captains and their pairings in the weeks leading up to the prestigious intercontinental competition.

Donald had his eyes on Ludvig Aberg for the 12-man team set to face the United States in Rome at the end of September. To emphasize his consideration, Donald deliberately turned his staff bag toward Aberg, revealing the Ryder Cup logo stitched beneath his name.

Greg Sands, Aberg’s college coach at Texas Tech, recalled the moment, saying, “It wasn’t too subtle. (Donald) turned his bag toward him just to say, ‘Hey big boy, what can you do?'”

Aberg rose to the challenge, impressively shooting a 63 that day, showcasing his strongest asset – his driver. He hit every fairway and averaged over 325 yards per tee shot. Aberg also hit 17 of 18 greens that day.

Selecting a player fresh out of the amateur ranks for a Ryder Cup team is usually controversial. Few possess the necessary skill set and comportment to handle the pressures of the Ryder Cup. However, Aberg became an obvious addition to Donald’s team when the picks were announced on September 4th.

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Donald expressed his confidence in Aberg, referring to him as a “generational player.” Aberg’s selection made history as he became the first player to compete in a Ryder Cup without prior participation in a major championship, according to Justin Ray of 21st Group.

Aberg, who secured PGA TOUR status as the top player in PGA TOUR U’s Class of 2023, made an impressive start to his professional career. He missed the cut in just one of his seven TOUR starts after turning pro, and he notched four top-25 finishes, including a fourth-place finish at the John Deere Classic in July.

He continued to shine in Europe after the PGA TOUR’s Regular Season concluded, participating in several DP World Tour events to provide Donald with a larger sample of his abilities. Aberg tied for fourth in the D+D Real Czech Masters and secured a victory at the Omega European Masters in early September, outplaying Matt Fitzpatrick, the 2022 U.S. Open champion and a top-10 world-ranked player. This victory occurred in only Aberg’s ninth start as a professional, just hours before Donald announced his six captain’s picks.

Reflecting on his selection to the Ryder Cup team, Aberg stated, “Once I get on the golf course, it’s still golf, and that’s what I’ve been doing for such a long time. It’s what I feel the most comfortable doing.”

In a remarkable turn of events, Aberg went from competing alongside his Red Raiders teammates in the Inverness Intercollegiate in Toledo, Ohio, just a year ago to joining the same roster as golfing giants like Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, and Viktor Hovland.

Aberg’s rapid ascent in the golf world, now ranked 80th in the world after starting the year outside the top 3,000, was facilitated by the unprecedented opportunities provided by PGA TOUR University. He became the first player to earn full PGA TOUR status by finishing atop the PGA TOUR University ranking, granting him access to all open, full-field events following the NCAA Championship.

Aberg’s amateur career included an impressive 28 weeks as the top-ranked player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Since the ranking’s debut in 2007, only Jon Rahm had spent more time at No. 1 among Europeans. Aberg also joined Rahm as a two-time winner of the prestigious Ben Hogan Award, given to the top player in collegiate and amateur golf.

Even while still an amateur, Aberg caught the attention of Luke Donald. As a reward for leading the PGA TOUR University Ranking after the fall season of college golf, Aberg received a sponsor exemption into the DP World Tour’s Hero Dubai Desert Classic in January. Paired with Edoardo Molinari, one of Donald’s vice captains, Aberg shot a first-round 65 to share the 18-hole lead.

The hype surrounding Aberg reached a fever pitch during Europe’s pre-Ryder Cup practice session. Even Rory McIlroy admitted his excitement in witnessing Aberg’s game. McIlroy approached Aberg on the first tee, saying, “I’ve been looking forward to this for a while.” Aberg and Hovland went on to defeat McIlroy and Fleetwood in their match that day.

Aberg has established himself as one of the game’s premier drivers, a valuable skill, especially given the expected thick rough at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club for the Ryder Cup. A player who consistently drives the ball long and straight is an asset in any format.

Aberg would rank second on the PGA TOUR in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee this season (+0.921 per round) if he had enough rounds to qualify for the statistical rankings. He is the only player to have averaged at least 315 yards off the tee while hitting at least 60% of his fairways this season among players with at least 25 rounds played.

Sands, Aberg’s coach, acknowledged another crucial characteristic in Aberg’s success as a professional – his ability to remain focused despite distractions. Sands observed this during Aberg’s senior season when he was aware of the PGA TOUR card awaiting him if he could maintain his No. 1 position in the PGA TOUR University ranking.


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