A year ago, Ludvig Aberg rose to the top of the amateur golf rankings without anyone except dedicated followers of the sport particularly knowing who he was. He could have strolled through the Wentworth Galleries at the PGA Championship in blissful anonymity.
To describe Aberg’s subsequent rise as meteoric seems to be an understatement. When he arrived in England to host the DP World Tour’s flagship event in 2023, he heard praise from Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland. After his wildcard selection for the European Ryder Cup team, Aberg is the talk of golf.
His interaction with McIlroy and Hovland in the opening rounds at Wentworth – with Gareth Bale in the crowd – confirmed his newfound fame. Aberg’s total score of 68 bested Hovland by one point and was four times better than McIlroy could muster on the West Course. The 23-year-old Swede continues to take everything well.
“That was great,” Aberg said. “A little more people follow me than I’m used to. It was really fun playing with both of these guys. Obviously the level of golf they can play is pretty amazing and for me it’s pretty cool to watch.
“I was running around on the fairways and almost jammed my arm, but I really enjoyed it. I’m proud of how I handled it today.”
Of course, that’s a small beer compared to Rome at the end of this month, when European and American fans will bring the atmosphere to huge noise. Aberg only turned professional in June; His seemingly unwavering nature is really something very special. “He’s ready,” Hovland said. “He is certainly not afraid of any moment.
“Of course this week is a big event, a very historic event and we all want to do well here. But I think, especially after the trip to Rome (earlier this week) and being able to spend some time together and watch the course, I think we’re all in a little bit of a Ryder Cup mentality. So it’s a bit strange having to have two thoughts at the same time.”
Aberg’s day would have been even better had it not been for a slow drive on the 17th that went out of bounds. He couldn’t do better than a double-bogey seven. Still, a run of five straight birdies from the 11th and another on the last meant he wasn’t unduly affected by the mistake. “I think this golf course is pretty easy,” Aberg said.
“If you put the ball in front of you off the tee, you get a lot of mid irons. Luckily I hit some nice shots today and of course made a few putts too. I think that’s what I have to keep doing and just take it as it is.” It sounds and looks so simple.
All 12 members of Luke Donald’s European team are in action at Wentworth. Thick rough, which is also available in Italy, appears intentional in view of the clash that takes place every two years. Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood combined for 69 rounds, while Donald equaled Sepp Straka’s 70. “Your game has to be sharp out there,” Lowry said.
Marcus Helligkilde stormed to the top of the rankings thanks to a 64. The Dane delivered ten birdies in his total of eight under par. “I hit terribly on the range,” said Helligkilde. “I asked my coach, ‘What should I do?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, you’ll probably play great.’ So that’s what happened. This is one of the best events I have ever attended. I love being out here.”
Among those struggling was Billy Horschel, who slipped to 75. Francesco Molinari, a former champion here, achieved this result.