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Business News/ Sports / The Ryder Cup Golfer Who Has Never Played a Major
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The Ryder Cup Golfer Who Has Never Played a Major


Sweden’s Ludvig Aberg has gone from college student to one of the potential keys for Team Europe in a matter of months.

Ludvig Aberg tees off during a practice round prior to the 2023 Ryder Cup. Premium
Ludvig Aberg tees off during a practice round prior to the 2023 Ryder Cup.

GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy—The coaches on the Texas Tech golf team had a private nickname for Ludvig Aberg, their Swedish star. They called him Ken.

His demeanor was so stoic that comparing him to the iconic doll wasn’t crazy. They thought he was the perfect guy for any date to introduce to their parents. And it didn’t hurt that they noticed he bore an uncanny resemblance to Barbie’s beau.

“He’s got all the things Ken has coming out of the plastic box," says Mikkel Bjerch-Andresen, a former assistant coach who helped recruit him.

Suddenly, Aberg’s professional golf career has come to life while he makes one of the most striking ascents in the game’s history. As recently as this spring, he was still competing for the Red Raiders. This week, he will become the first golfer ever to play in the Ryder Cup before competing in a single major. He’s risen so quickly that he went from off the radar to becoming a key part of a European squad tasked with preventing the U.S. from winning for the first time on this continent since 1993.

What’s so incredible about Aberg’s star turn is that he’s only been a professional golfer for a matter of months, but his inclusion on the European roster wasn’t controversial at all. That’s because of everything the 23-year-old has shown in such a short period of time.

He averages 317 yards on his drives. He has already won on the European Tour. And he’s assembling a track record as one of the best young golfers on the planet quicker than an Ikea bookshelf.

“If someone would have told me a couple months ago that I would be here playing a Ryder Cup, probably wouldn’t believe them," Aberg said.

There are golfers here at Marco Simone Golf Club, outside of Rome, who have won multiple majors and gotten used to the uniquely frenzied crowds at a Ryder Cup. Then there’s Aberg, who earlier this year was still a 6-foot-3 Swedish kid taking college classes.

Texas Tech coach Greg Sands takes a scouting trip to Europe every summer, and it shows: his roster last season had two Swedes, two Norwegians and another player from Scotland. Aberg stood out on those visits because he possessed the one skill that modern golf prizes above anything else. He hit the ball extraordinarily far and usually pretty straight, too.

“He had length with efficiency," Sands says.

Sands eventually got him to commit, and when this teenager from Eslov, Sweden arrived in Lubbock, Texas, the biggest adjustment he faced wasn’t cultural. It was agricultural.

As a freshman, Aberg struggled with his putting, and his coaches identified a clear reason why he was having issues judging the speeds and reading lines. The greens were simply different than he was used to back home.

“Bermuda grass doesn’t fare well in Scandinavia," Bjerch-Andresen says.

Bjerch-Andresen would know. He’s from Norway.

But Aberg adapted and it wasn’t long until he was the best college golfer in the country. This past season, he swept the major national player of the year awards. He also won his second consecutive Big 12 championship, becoming the first men’s golfer to pull off the feat, while setting the record for the lowest individual score.

The one moment that sticks out in Sands’s mind is a trip the team took to Hawaii for an event in February. The wind was blowing so ferociously that the first three rounds were canceled, and the team decided to salvage its time there with a one-day match against the University of North Carolina.

The wind was still howling when the teams teed off, but one of the things Aberg’s coaches say again and again about him is that nothing seems to faze him. Aberg was playing against one of the other top collegiate golfers that day, and he still managed to win his match with six holes to play.

Sands recalls seeing Aberg’s opponent walking off the course muttering: “I can’t beat God in golf."

There was never a better time for a college golfer to have a standout season. Last season, the PGA Tour introduced a new wrinkle in which the top player in its University rankings would receive a Tour card.

Aberg didn’t waste much time making the leap. Less than two weeks after playing in his final collegiate event, he teed it up as a pro for the first time at the RBC Canadian Open, and he didn’t look one bit out of place when he finished tied for 25th. Less than a month after that, he recorded his first top-five finish. Even more impressively, he missed only one cut.

His run of good form continued when he played on the European Tour. In September, he won the Omega European Masters. Two weeks later, he held the 54-hole lead at the BMW PGA Championship before finishing tied for 10th. In a testament to his strong play, the golf analytics website already has him pegged as the 34th best player in the world.

In a small window, Aberg made it clear that he excels at one thing in particular: nuking the ball with surprising accuracy. In an era when golfers are often sacrificing precision for distance, Aberg manages to do both. His average driving distance on the PGA Tour of 317 yards would have ranked third last season, while he hit the fairway 63.3% of the time. Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy led the Tour in driving distance, but his driving accuracy was just 53.3%.

It wasn’t long ago that these two golfers were competing on completely different levels of the sport. Now Ludvig Aberg is Rory McIlroy’s teammate at the Ryder Cup.

Write to Andrew Beaton at

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