Ludvig lurking

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M. James Ward assesses the emergence of golf's next generation and whether a Swede can win the grand prize this week at Pinehurst.
Posted on
June 14, 2024
by
M. James Ward in ,
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

PINEHURST, NC. Time and tide wait for no man. The same can be said for talent.

One cannot rest on one's laurels as the next wave of players begins to make their ascent up the pro golf ladder.

Far too often the focus is on the known personalities but golf's pool of global talent is a never-ending stream bringing to the forefront new players looking to assert themselves.

Ludvig Åberg entered the pro golf scene just over a year ago after a star collegiate career at Texas Tech. In short order he has made a name for himself. He was a member of the European Ryder Cup team last year in Rome after never having played in a major championship until this year's Masters.

He quickly cemented the fanfare in winning a PGA Tour event last Fall.

At Augusta he finished in the runner-up position to winner Scottie Scheffler. Given that performance the expectation bar was far higher with the PGA Championship at Valhalla. However, the 24-year-old took a step backwards – failing to make the 36-hole cut.

At the first round of the 124th US Open, Åberg reasserted himself into the proceedings with a four-under-par 66. The round featured six birdies against two bogies and has him just one shot off the lead co-shared by Patrick Cantlay and Rory McIlroy. His lowest score in a major in just seven total rounds played.

The Swede is attempting to be the first male golfer from his country to claim a major championship title. Others have come close – notably Jesper Parnevik from years past.

What's evident in observing his play is the quiet confidence he presents. The emerging stars do not show hesitation or see the big stage as something beyond their reach. His honesty in assessing the gravity of what's involved showcases a refreshing candor on what the moment presents.

"Nervous? Oh, I'm always nervous when I'm playing tournament golf. I think that's the way it's supposed to be. I think the day when I'm not nervous, it's not a good sign. Obviously, a lot of butterflies this morning. It was early, but a lot of butterflies."

More than anything else – Åberg is quickly acclimating himself to the proceedings. A US Open title is what brought to the forefront such names as Jack Nicklaus at 22, Tiger Woods at 24 and McIlroy at 22. Nonetheless, Åberg remains centered and not focused on any specific number.

"No. I don't think we're trying to chase a number, per se. I think we're just trying to manage our way around the golf course. Obviously today (first round) I executed it very nicely, and that's maybe not always going to be the case."

The degree of difficulty of Pinehurst No.2 weighs uppermost on his mind with 54 holes to play.

"Pinehurst is hard as it is. It's going to be difficult; it's going to be tricky. It's hard to put a number out there, I guess. All we try to do is just hit as many good shots as we can to the areas that we're playing for, then see where that adds up."

Ludvig Åberg
(Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

Åberg is not the only young player looking to make a name for himself. The sport is gravitating to younger players fully tested through competitions starting at an earlier age. Swing efficiencies have been finely tuned to avoid the kind of breakdowns that extreme pressure can cause.

Round one is now in the history books and no one knows that better than Åberg.

"Super happy with the execution today. I felt it was really nice and very encouraging. All we can try to do is keep it up and make sure that we're ready to go tomorrow."

Yes – the focus on what's next. The great players have always realized that when yesterday is finished it's done.

Friday's second round will be another measuring stick for a young man looking to emerge and validate all of the assessments made by others.

Åberg is learning the ropes quickly and Pinehurst No.2 will be a clear indicator on just how far he has progressed.

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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