The Rise And Rise of Sweden's Ludvig Aberg
In the first of an occasional series in which he will profile some of the brightest young talents in the game, Derek Clements tells you everything you need to know about rising star Ludvig Aberg.
NOT since Tiger Woods joined the PGA Tour way back in 1996 has a young golfer made an impact on the men's professional game in the way that Ludvig Aberg has.
He only turned professional in May and has yet to play in his first major but has already played in the Ryder Cup. So, who is Ludvig Aberg?
He was born on October 31, 1999 in Eslov, Sweden, and was introduced to golf at eight years of age at his local club, Eslöv Golf Club, by his father, Johan, who was a keen golfer.
He initially was not fond of the game, but his father encouraged him by offering him ice cream if he stayed an extra hour at the course.
Aberg also played football until the age of 13, when he decided to focus on golf.
When Aberg was 15, he won a place at Filbornaskolan, a boarding school in Helsingborg that draws sporting talent from across Sweden. The school counts Henrik Larsson among its alumni, as well as several Olympic swimmers and professional golfers.
A typical day for golfers at Filbornaskolan looked like this:
Up at 6.30am for breakfast in the dorm; school lessons; 90 minutes of physical training; lunch and more lessons; a 6km cycle to the 54-hole Vasatorps Golf Club outside the city, where players had dinner and spent several hours working intensively on their game; cycle home; homework, and bed at 10pm. He was in the same year group at the school as future Solheim Cup stars Maja Stark and Linn Grant.
Aberg says of his time there: “It was probably the first time that I started to practice - before that, I was just going out and playing. It’s where I met my coach and we’ve had a great relationship ever since we started. He’s one of the main reasons why I’m here today. It laid the foundation for my career and I’m forever going to be grateful for that.”
In 2016, Aberg was awarded the Annika Sörenstam Trophy after winning the Swedish Teen Tour Order of Merit.
Representing Sweden, he was individual leader at the 2017 European Boys Team Championship and finished third at the 2018 Junior World Cup. He won the Fairhaven Trophy in 2017. Aberg made his DP World Tour debut at the Nordea Masters in 2018, where he finished tied 34th.
In 2019, he was runner-up at the African Amateur Stroke Play Championship and was a member of the winning Swedish team at the European Amateur Team Championship.
Aberg joined Texas Tech University aged 20. Young Europeans chase a coveted place in the US because college golf offers the highest standards of teaching and monitoring equipment, and increasingly it is a door to the PGA Tour. He dominated, winning the Ben Hogan Award (US universities’ best player) in back-to-back years - the only other player to do that is Masters champion Jon Rahm.
One of his best performances came at Whispering Pines where he clinched the Big 12 Championship - the pinnacle of college golf - by dismantling one of the most intimidating courses in Texas. He began the final round in the lead and proceeded to hit 17 greens in regulation - the only one he missed was by a foot.
“Ludvig is a once-in-a-generation kid,” says Greg Sands, the head coach of golf at Texas Tech. “Quite frankly I don’t know if I’ll ever have another kid like that again.
“He’s got a really unique presence to him. The only way I can describe it is almost like an Ernie Els, where he just seems to be unflappable and not show his emotions and stay in the present. He can open the door and say OK, here’s all the distractions, and then close that door and execute and go play golf.”
In 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic shut down college golf in the U.S, Aberg spent six months in Europe competing in the Nordic Golf League, winning two events, and in December, he represented the International Team at the Arnold Palmer Cup.
In February 2021, Aberg won the Jones Cup Invitational after an opening round of 62, and in April, he became the number one ranked amateur in Europe.
He could have been lost to the wider game but in the spring of 2022, Aberg opted to turn down a two-year-$2.5m contract from LIV Golf.
In May 2022, he was named the Ben Hogan Award winner, as the best college player in the United States. In September 2022, he represented Sweden at the Eisenhower Trophy, where his team finished second and he tied 7th individually. He rose to number one in the World Amateur Golf Rankings for the first time on 21 September 2022.
Aberg earned an invitation to compete in the Dubai Desert Classic in January 2023 through leading the PGA Tour University rankings in autumn 2022. In Dubai, he held a share of the lead after the first round. In February 2023, he won The Prestige for a third consecutive year. In March, he received a sponsor exemption to the Arnold Palmer Invitational, finishing in a tie for 24th.
In April 2023, he broke the scoring record at the Big 12 Men's Golf Championship, to become the first golfer to retain the individual title. In May 2023, he became only the second two-time winner of the Ben Hogan Award.
Aberg secured fully exempt status on the PGA Tour through the 2024 season by finishing on top of the 2022–23 PGA Tour University rankings, the first year of this exemption in force. He turned professional in June 2023, ending his amateur career ranked number one on the World Amateur Golf Ranking
He made his debut as a professional in June at the Canadian Open, making the cut and finishing in a tie for 25th place.
In July, at the John Deere Classic, he recorded his first top-10 on the tour; a final-round 63 put him in a tie for fourth place, three strokes behind winner Sepp Straka.
Towards the end of August, Aberg travelled to Europe to compete on the DP World Tour. At the Czech Masters he finished in a tie for fourth place after a final-round 66.
The following week at the European Masters, he recorded his first win as a professional. He birdied four of the closing five holes in his final round of 64 to finish two strokes ahead of fellow countryman Alexander Bjork. Two weeks later, at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, he held a two-stroke lead after 54 holes before a final round 76 saw him finish in a tie for 10th place.
Following his victory at the European Masters, Aberg was announced by European captain Luke Donald as one of his six captain's picks for Team Europe at the Ryder Cup. He became the first player to be selected for a Ryder Cup without having played in a major and only the second, after Sergio Garcia to make a Ryder Cup team during the same year as turning professional.
He played four matches at the Ryder Cup, tallying a 2-2-0 record, as Europe won the event. In the Saturday foursomes session, he and Viktor Hovland recorded a record 9&7 victory over world number one Scottie Scheffler and PGA champion Brooks Koepka.
The week after the Ryder Cup, Aberg returned to the PGA Tour and finished as joint runner-up in the Sanderson Farms Championship, losing to Luke list in a five-man playoff.
It has been quite a journey - and it has a long, long way to run.
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