Draws and Fades: Great putters set to hunt down Ludvig Åberg at The RSM Classic
5 Min Read
Written by Brady Kannon @lasvegasgolfer
They have reached the mid-way point of the final PGA TOUR event of 2023. Only 36 holes this weekend left to go at The RSM Classic at the Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Georgia, and the young phenom from Sweden, Ludvig Åberg is your leader at 11 under.
Åberg, a two-time Ben Hogan award winner at Texas Tech University, burst onto the TOUR scene earlier this year and added to his notoriety by going 2-2-0 as a Ryder Cup rookie - part of Europe's victory less than two months ago in Italy.
I noted in our First Round Leader column that my handicap favored Driving Accuracy over Driving Distance at this tournament. Åberg, a big hitter, has been excellent in both categories, ranking 23rd for Driving Accuracy through two rounds, and second in Driving Distance.
Ludvig Åberg’s Round 2 highlights from The RSM Classic
He was the second choice on the outright winner board at BetMGM pre-tournament at +1400. Heading into the weekend, Åberg is now the shortest shot at +250. BetMGM oddsmaker at The Mirage in Las Vegas, Scott Shelton, says the book is a small winner with Åberg.
One shot off the lead at 10 under, sit Eric Cole, Sam Ryder and Denny McCarthy. McCarthy got off to a hot start on Thursday, playing the Plantation Course, cashing our second straight First Round Leader play with a 7-under 65. Five players are at 9 under, including Matt Kuchar and 2019 RSM Classic champion, Tyler Duncan. An additional 12 players round out the top 10, sitting at 8 under. Defending champion, Adam Svensson finds himself among this group as do two-time Sea Island winner, Robert Streb, Cameron Young and Brendon Todd. Shelton added, “Our biggest liability pre-tournament was J.T. Poston. Of the guys in contention, we are a significant loser with Eric Cole.”
OUTRIGHT ODDS (BetMGM)
+250: Ludvig Åberg (-11, 1st)
+700: Eric Cole (-10, T2)
+800: Denny McCarthy (-10, T2)
+1400: Sam Ryder (-10, T2)
+1600: Cameron Young (-8, T10); Matt Kuchar (-9, T5)
+2800: Austin Eckroat (-9, T5); Brendon Todd (-8, T10)
Rain in the area caused a delay during Thursday's action and softened up the golf course. Partly cloudy conditions have kept scoring conditions quite favorable. It appears that it will stay this way over the weekend with high temperatures forecasted to be in the mid-to-low 70's, some cloud cover, and wind ranging anywhere from 5-15 mph.
For the remainder of the tournament, we switch solely to the Seaside Course but it hasn't provided us many clues as far as playing any easier - or tougher than its Plantation side counterpart - as pointed out on Twitter by my colleague, Rob Bolton.
With the leaderboard as bunched as it is (30 players are four shots or less off the lead), this golf tournament is a long way from being decided. I'm looking at three players to back and one player that I'll staying away from heading into the weekend.
Denny McCarthy (+800)
Denny McCarthy navigates No. 7 for birdie at The RSM Classic
McCarthy has been very accurate off the tee and is hitting plenty of greens in regulation through the first 36 holes. He dipped however, on Friday, losing strokes to the field on approach and his putter cooled off - yet he still shot 3 under. It feels as if his worst is behind him. He's one of the best putters in the field, so I feel that will right itself over the weekend. Over the last 24 rounds, he ranks 2nd in this field for SG: Par 4's measuring 400-450 yards. He'll play on 20 of those holes in the next two days. Also considering the last 24 rounds, McCarthy ranks 22nd in this field on the correlated courses I used this week and eighth on shorter courses in general. What is left in front of him, looks to be right in his wheelhouse.
Sam Ryder (+1400)
Ryder came into the week, ranking No. 1 in this field for SG: Approach over the last 24 rounds and while he's been very good in this area so far, I believe it will only get better. Like McCarthy, Ryder too is one of the best putters in this field and ranks third to McCarthy's second on the Par 4's in the 400–450-yard range. Both Ryder and McCarthy are seeking their first PGA TOUR victory and they are both in prime position to grab it.
Adam Svensson (+3300)
Will he go back-to-back? Maybe. I have a special place in my heart - or wallet, rather, for Svensson as I hit him in his win here last year at +15000 - but that doesn't have much to do with me taking a shot with him here other than I am well aware of how he fits this golf course. He's played very steadily the first two days without anything that jumps out as a red flag. In fact, in shooting a round of 68 on Thursday, he lost nearly a shot-and-a-half to the field with the putter. But we are talking about a guy that ranks 36th in this field for SG: Putting (Bermudagrass) over the last 24 rounds and his flat stick rebounded accordingly on Friday. If he just continues along as he has so far, he ought to be fine. If he finds an especially low round over the next two days, he just might become a repeat winner. Svensson went 62-64 over the weekend last year on the Seaside course on his way to victory.
Ludvig Åberg (+250)
Obviously this young man has the talent to win just about anywhere at any time but there are two things that will keep me off of him here in St. Simons Island. Over the last 24 rounds, Åberg came into this event ranked 92nd in the field for SG: Approach and so far, that has played out as he is losing strokes to the field in this area. Secondly, with so many possible scenarios in play due to the log jam at the top of the leaderboard, I believe Åberg's price should be at least double of what is being offered. His putting has been hot and cold through two rounds. If his approach play continues to be sub-par, he'll have to rely on that putter being especially good over the next two days and that is not something I want to buy in on at a little better than 2 to 1 odds.