Ludvig Åberg’s runaway win at The RSM Classic foreshadows the future
7 Min Read
Written by Sean Martin @PGATOURSMartin
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – There is an incredible simplicity to Ludvig Åberg’s game. If asked to render the ideal golf swing, artificial intelligence would generate something similar to Åberg’s action. His move is so textbook that it lacks idiosyncrasy. In an era where players will twist, turn and push in any direction to squeeze out an extra mile per hour of clubhead speed, Åberg’s swing is devoid of strain. His metronomic tempo never wavers, and his club never strays from the ideal plane.
A golf swing is like a fingerprint. Each player has a unique characteristic that makes him or her recognizable from hundreds of yards away. What sets Åberg apart is the absence of any such identifying trait.
He also plays quickly, decisively and without emotion. His comportment mirrors his swing, possessing an elegant intensity. It is not a forced stoicism. He is placid as he plays.
“I always felt he looked like Adam Scott, kind of a tall, dark and handsome guy that swings it pretty effortlessly,” said Greg Sands, his college coach at Texas Tech. “He has the ability to take over a golf course.”
All of these gifts, both tangible and intangible, are the reason Åberg was one of the most-hyped prospects to exit the collegiate game in years. He quickly proved all the attention was for good reason, and it came to the climax in the PGA TOUR’s season finale for 2023.
Åberg won The RSM Classic on Sunday in record-setting fashion, shooting 29-under 253 (67-64-61-61) to win by four shots over Mackenzie Hughes. Åberg tied the lowest 72-hole total in TOUR history, matching the winning score of Justin Thomas at the 2017 Sony Open in Hawaii, and set the record for lowest score over a tournament’s final two rounds. His final 54 holes also set a TOUR record for lowest score over three consecutive rounds.
Ludvig Åberg captures first PGA TOUR win at The RSM Classic
Åberg has played 14 professional events since turning pro in June out of Texas Tech, and he has already won two of them. He was victorious earlier this year on the DP World Tour, in the process becoming the quickest player to compete in a Ryder Cup after turning pro. He’s finished outside the top 25 just three times as a pro. His worst finish in his last eight worldwide starts is T14. In addition to his two wins, he also has a runner-up where he lost in a playoff, at the Sanderson Farms Championship, and was the 54-hole leader at the DP World Tour’s top event, the BMW PGA Championship (he eventually finished 10th).
“It’s been so much fun,” Åberg said. “I still pinch myself in the morning when I wake up to … realize that this is what I do for a job.”
He's quickly fulfilled the potential he showed as an amateur. He and Jon Rahm are the only players to win multiple Ben Hogan Awards. They both won the award for the top player in collegiate and amateur golf twice. Rahm is the only European to spend more time atop the World Amateur Golf Rankings, which debuted in 2007. Åberg was the No. 1 player in PGA TOUR University’s Class of 2023, becoming the first player to earn direct access to the PGA TOUR through that program.
“I think the whole concept of winning a tournament, I just fell in love with it,” Åberg said Sunday. “I just absolutely love it. There's something very weird and special about it. You know, you just want to do it again and again and again.”
His decision to stay in school for an additional season, and resist the temptation to turn pro, is an example of the patience and maturity that has served Åberg well as a pro, said Peter Hanson, the former Ryder Cup player and six-time winner on the DP World Tour who serves as his coach and mentor.
"I think it is easy when you are young to rush things," Hanson said. "You see the pro career being so tempting. He has been very patient. He wanted to be well prepared when he came out. I think he has proved that."
He's now firmly ensconced in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking and also cracked the top 60 in the FedExCup in just 11 TOUR starts as a pro. He has qualified for the season-opening The Sentry and the Masters, which will be his first major championship. He also qualified for two additional Signature Events, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and The Genesis Invitational, by finishing in the top 60 of the FedExCup at the conclusion of the FedExCup Fall.
Ludvig Åberg's closing birdie to secure the win is the Shot of the Day
He's made it look simple, and that is by design. Åberg 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. He doesn’t have an X (formerly known as Twitter) account and there are just 64 posts on his Instagram. Sands grew accustomed to Åberg taking a few hours to respond to texts about non-urgent matters. Åberg records his introspections in a journal, writing his thoughts in both Swedish and English in college so that Sands could understand them.
“He has a good idea of how he wants things. He wants to keep things simple. When things are simple around him, he seems to be in a good spirit and plays well,” said Hanson.
Åberg’s ability off the tee makes things easier, as well. His muscular, 6-foot-3 frame helps him combine distance and accuracy in an unmatched manner. He is second on TOUR in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and sixth in Driving Distance (317.1 yards). He also hits 65% of his fairways, an incredible amount for someone who hits the ball as far as he does. He ranks 27th in Driving Accuracy this season.
This week, Åberg led the field in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, was second in Driving Distance (309.5 yards), fifth in Greens in Regulation and sixth in Driving Accuracy. He missed just 10 fairways and 10 greens this week. He made just one bogey.
“He just looks robotic, and I mean that in a good way,” said TOUR veteran Stewart Cink, a vice captain for the U.S. at this year’s Ryder Cup. “He’s obviously got a really strong sense of self-belief and fortitude to go with that. That’s what’s missing sometimes from the ones who don’t turn out to be great.”
Ludvig Åberg’s interview after winning The RSM Classic
There is a Starbucks a couple miles from Sea Island Golf Club that serves as an informal social hub for the TOUR’s traveling circus during The RSM Classic.
The coffee joint’s proximity to the course, early-morning hours and the quaint vibe of the small coastal town that hosts the TOUR’s season finale all make it an easy place for players, caddies and coaches to frequent. One day earlier this week, two PGA TOUR winners were seated at a table, pondering their futures in the game after failing to retain their fully-exempt status.
While considering what awaited their careers, they started discussing the player who looks like he’ll be a large impediment to any players who want to make a living by collecting trophies.
“There is not a world where we could beat Ludvig Åberg on a consistent basis,” one player said. The other admitted that he didn’t know much about Åberg when the Swede turned pro this summer. He learned quickly, saying that after his first six holes with Åberg he thought he was looking at the “next (expletive) Tiger Woods.”
There was slight hyperbole in the statement. Comparisons to Woods are always dangerous. But Åberg has established himself as a rare talent.
“I don’t try to copy anyone. I don’t try to emulate anyone,” Åberg said. “I just try to play myself and trust that it’s good enough.”
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.