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No. 1 amateur Ludvig Aberg has markers for success

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No. 1 amateur Ludvig Aberg has markers for success

Texas Tech star leads PGA TOUR University presented by Velocity Global ranking

    Written by Sean Martin @PGATOURSMartin

    Get to know: Texas Tech's Ludvig Aberg

    Editor's note: Ludvig Aberg is the No. 1 player in PGA TOUR University's Class of 2023, and with that honor will receive unprecedented benefits. He is the first player to earn immediate PGA TOUR status through PGA TOUR U. He has proven himself worthy of the honor. Aberg won his second consecutive Hogan Award this year, joining Jon Rahm as the only player to win that award in consecutive years. He also is No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and winner of the past two Big 12 Championships. The below story was written earlier this year after Aberg finished college golf's fall season as the top player in PGA TOUR U. He is expected to make his pro debut at next week's RBC Canadian Open.

    LUBBOCK, Texas – Confusion often reigns on the final holes of a college golf tournament. With five-man teams spread across multiple holes and live-scoring updates often dependent on the quality of a player’s cell service, it can be hard to get an accurate appraisal of the leaderboard. One thing was certain on Ludvig Aberg’s final hole of last year’s Cabo Collegiate Invitational, however. He needed to make his 30-foot birdie putt to keep his team’s hopes alive.

    Texas Tech’s head coach, Greg Sands, did not hesitate to share the importance of that putt with his star player. While some coaches may be reticent to divulge such information, lest they add more pressure to a stressful situation, Aberg always wants to know where he stands. He'd rather have the facts than a sanitized version of the truth. Just call him Honest Aberg.

    “You could see that focus hone in,” Sands said. “He knew what he needed to do.”

    And he did it. After making the putt, Aberg simply turned to his coach and said, “I love this game.”

    Sands uses that story to illustrate Aberg’s ability to remain calm and control his emotions in the heat of competition.

    “He loved the opportunity it presented and loved the fact that he got it done,” Sands said. “I think that speaks to his ability to, so to speak, want the ball at the end of the game.

    “He wants the putt. He wants the big shot.”

    Aberg, who is in the final semester of a successful college career, has all the physical tools of a future star, but success in the pro game is often defined by intangibles, and observers believe his poise and patience, more than an elite long game, could set him apart.

    He’ll get another chance to test himself against the pros when he tees it up in this week’s DP World Tour Hero Dubai Desert Classic. He received the invitation for holding the top spot in the PGA TOUR University presented by Velocity Global ranking after the fall portion of the college season. An even bigger award awaits Aberg if he can stay No. 1 through this year’s NCAA Championship.

    It was announced late last year that PGA TOUR University’s top player will earn PGA TOUR status after the conclusion of the college season. He will be eligible for all open, full-field events and will earn FedExCup points for his finishes, giving him the opportunity to qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs.

    Aberg, who stands more than 6 feet tall and has a physique that belies his childhood passion for playing soccer, is a golfer built in the modern mold. A strong ballstriker, he wields driver with impunity to press his advantage over his competition.

    “He’s got the ability to take over a golf course,” Sands said, pointing to the final round of Aberg’s win in last year’s Big 12 Championship at Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity, Texas, to illustrate his point. Aberg putted for birdie on all 18 holes after hitting 16 greens and two approach shots onto the fringe.

    His victory at the 19th Jones Cup Invitational last year provides further proof. There may not be an amateur event that does a better job of prognosticating professional success than the Jones Cup, which is played on a penal layout in the heart of winter on Georgia’s southeastern coast. More than half the winners, including multiple major champions, have played on the PGA TOUR. And that doesn’t count Jordan Spieth, who lost in a playoff to John Peterson (who finished T4 in the next year’s U.S. Open) in 2011.

    In winning that tournament, Aberg invited comparisons to the elite of the elite.

    “I always felt he looked like Adam Scott,” Sands said of Aberg, “kind of a tall, dark and handsome guy that swings it pretty effortlessly.”

    Aberg is built in the modern mold but with an old soul. Like Scott, he is selective with his words and not known for showing emotion. Reflecting on the final hole in Cabo last year, Aberg said, “It's so much fun because it's so much tension and everyone is so stressed out, but if you just take a step back and look at it from the outside, it's hilarious. I just enjoy those kinds of situations.”

    He goes about his work quietly, which is evident on an early fall morning when Aberg and his teammates go through workouts in the Texas Tech Sports Performance Center. It is still dark outside as the typical testosterone-fueled soundtrack of a weight room – blaring hip-hop interrupted by grunts, groans and crashing metal plates – echoes through the spacious facility, which also houses an indoor track and practice facility for the football team under its 85-foot-high ceilings. ‘Quiet exertion’ may sound like an oxymoron, but it is an apt description as he moves through a series of medicine-ball throws. Toward the end of the workout, players perform multiple vertical jumps as a trainer barks out the height of each attempt.

    “If they see that number on there, it’s just like whenever they’re on TrackMan and getting their clubhead speeds,” said Scott Ramsey, the strength and conditioning coach for Texas Tech’s golf teams. “They’re going to try to beat it every single time. … All I’m trying to do is just get them to try their best every single attempt.”

    Aberg doesn’t need to be sold on the benefits of objective analysis. He studied economics in high school in Sweden, keeps his Strokes Gained stats and journals after every tournament to reflect on his performance (producing entries in English and Swedish to share with his coaches in each country). The entries range from techniques – “My swing was very neutral throughout the whole week,” he wrote after winning the Big 12 Championship – to emotions.

    “First time playing in front of big crowds and grandstands,” he wrote about the 2018 Nordea Masters, a DP World Tour event where he made the cut at age 18. “It made me more nervous, but I remembered that (Jonnie Erikson, coach of the Swedish national team) said that being nervous is just a feeling and not something that’s going to affect your behavior unless you let it.”

    He doesn’t have a Twitter account and rarely posts on Instagram, knowing there are more productive ways to spend his time. Sands has grown accustomed to Aberg taking a few hours to respond to texts about non-urgent matters.

    Cal Poly men’s golf coach Phil Rowe, who led the International Team at last year’s Palmer Cup, described Aberg as a “totally comfortable, yet powerful, presence that permeated the team.

    “He was a listener and curious but an assassin on the course who elevated the games of those around him,” added Rowe, who represented Great Britain & Ireland in the 1999 Walker Cup and played in the 2000 Open Championship.

    Aberg played soccer until he shifted his focus to golf at age 13. He was a central midfielder, a position he enjoyed because it was involved in so much of the action.

    “I just feel like you have such control, and I guess it kind of reflects to the golf game a little bit, that you want control,” he said. “For me, golf is like the ultimate sport where you actually control everything yourself.”

    One of the rare times Aberg is constantly checking his phone is during the final holes of a tournament. While other players are trying their hardest to avoid leaderboards, Aberg is refreshing the live scoring. It’s another example of his preference for honest assessment.

    “He loves seeing leaderboards,” Sands said. “He wants to know where he’s at and what he has to do.”

    Sean Martin manages PGATOUR.COM’s staff of writers as the Lead, Editorial. He covered all levels of competitive golf at Golfweek Magazine for seven years, including tournaments on four continents, before coming to the PGA TOUR in 2013. Follow Sean Martin on Twitter.

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