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    Tuesday, March 05, 2024

    Ludvig Aberg with another 61 wins at Sea Island

    St. Simons Island, Ga. — Ludvig Aberg added to his astonishing second half of the year when he closed with a second straight 9-under 61 on Sunday to win the RSM Classic, his first PGA Tour title to go along with a European tour victory and a winning debut in the Ryder Cup.

    And to think the 24-year-old Swede was still at Texas Tech six months ago.

    "Beyond my dreams," Aberg said. "It's been six months I'll never forget."

    Not only did he win the final event of the PGA Tour season, he did it in record fashion. His final birdie allowed Aberg to tie the 72-hole scoring record on the PGA Tour, matching the 253 of Justin Thomas at the 2017 Sony Open.

    His 61-61 finish set the tour record for lowest closing 36 holes, beating by one the mark shared by Matt Jones at Kapalua in 2022 and Patrick Rodgers at Sea Island in 2019.

    "I think the sky's the limit," said Mackenzie Hughes, who gave Aberg a spirited battle with a 63 and couldn't keep up. "He's got the whole package. Got a good demeanor, doesn't get too up or down. I'm sure we're going to see a lot of him for the next few years."

    Aberg seized control with three straight birdies, one of them when he fearlessly drove over the marsh on the 407-yard fifth hole to 30 feet, and then held off Hughes, a hard-luck victim. Hughes shot 60-63 on the weekend and finished four shots behind.

    Even after making his only bogey of the week, on the 12th hole of the Seaside course at Sea Island, Aberg answered every challenge.

    He was two shots ahead when Hughes hit a nifty pitch to tap-in range for birdie on the 15th. Aberg was in the middle of a deep bunker with a tight pin and splashed that out to 4 feet for a matching birdie.

    He all but clinched it with a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th, and for good measure he rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt at the end to put his name in the record book.

    Aberg gave a brief, sweeping fist pump when the last birdie putt fell, a rare display of emotion. He said he considers being in contention a privilege, and he looks the part with a sweet smile and a killer instinct.

    "This is what you dream of as a kid," Aberg said. "This is the sport I love and am going to love for a long time. If you told me this a couple of months ago, I would not believe you. To be in this position, I need to pinch myself in the arm."

    It was the shot on the par-4 fifth, which bends hard to the right around the marsh, that stuck with Hughes.

    "He's kind of the modern-day player. I mean, No. 5 is probably the prime example of that," Hughes said. "I'm playing left of that bunker and he flies it on the green and two-putts for birdie. So super impressive shot to not only hit it long but to hit that straight."

    Aberg was assured of a PGA Tour card for 2024 as the No. 1 player from the PGA Tour University ranking after his senior year at Texas Tech.

    In the 14 tournaments he played since June — three on the European tour — he won on the PGA Tour and had three other top 10s, including a playoff loss. He didn't finish worse than a tie for 10th on the European tour, winning the European Masters in Switzerland to all but seal his spot on the Ryder Cup team.

    Aberg and Viktor Hovland teamed at Marco Simone for a 9-and-7 foursomes win over Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka, a Ryder Cup record for margin of victory.

    The victory at Sea Island moves him to No. 32 in the world. He earned a spot at the Masters, along with a spot at Kapalua in The Sentry to start the year. He also would appear to be a shoo-in for PGA Tour rookie of the year. The other top candidate, Eric Cole, played in the final group with Aberg and shot 67 to tie for third with Tyler Duncan (65).

    "When he was playing as well as he was, it's going to be hard to catch him," Cole said.

    Aberg finished at 29-under 253, breaking by seven shots the tournament record since it moved to two courses, the par-72 Plantation and the par-70 Seaside.

    Ryan Moore picked up a substantial consolation prize. He birdied the 17th and closed with a 65 to tie for eighth, easily enough for him to finish in the top 125 in the FedEx Cup and keep his full card for 2024. He said the nerves were "close to what I felt trying to win a golf tournament coming down the stretch."

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