Golf-Aberg leads cast of rookies hoping to write Ryder Cup script


  • Golf
  • Thursday, 28 Sep 2023

FILE PHOTO: Golf - The 2023 Ryder Cup - Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, Rome, Italy - September 27, 2023 Team Europe's Ludvig Aberg plays out of a bunker on the 12th hole during a practice round REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) - Trawl through the annals of the Ryder Cup and there are tales aplenty of rookies rising to the occasion with match-winning contributions but Sweden's Ludvig Aberg is already making waves before striking a ball in anger.

The 23-year-old is one of eight rookies featuring in the 44th edition of the biennial match -- four apiece for Europe and the United States -- but by far the most hyped.

Two of those eight are seasoned Americans Brian Harman and Wyndham Clark who claimed their first major titles this year; Harman at The British Open and Clark at the U.S. Open.

By contrast, Aberg is fresh out of Texas Tech, only turned professional in June and is the first player ever to feature in the Ryder Cup without ever contesting a major championship.

Having swept the honours in college golf, Aberg won his first professional tournament 75 days after joining the paid ranks, eclipsing a stellar field at the European Masters.

For those in the know, it's no surprise he has exploded on to the scene. "I was on the bandwagon before," Europe talisman Rory McIlroy said after seeing him close up for the first time. "I'm certainly at the front of it now."

Aberg is already being compared to Spain's world number three and Masters champion Jon Rahm, another who excelled on the college tour, while Europe captain Luke Donald was "blown away" when playing with him and called him a "generational talent."

Aberg attempted to play down the hype when one media representative said he was already as famous as other Swedes including pop music icons Abba and tennis great Bjorn Borg.

"I would not put myself in the same sentence as Abba. All I try to do is play golf and I try to hit as few shots as I can every tournament I play in," he said.

The strapping Swede is keeping admirably cool about his impending Ryder Cup debut, but many are predicting that he could light up the Marco Simone course and be the ace in Donald's pack.

Donald himself has no doubt Aberg is ready even if he initially thought it was a long shot for a pick when he asked him to come over and play some DP World Tour events.

"He seems very unfazed. He's quite quiet. He's a listener," Donald told reporters at Marco Simone this week. "Every time he's sort of asked a question of trying to perform, he's able to step up, and I'm excited to have him on the team."

While so much focus is on Aberg, the other seven rookies will have just as big an impact on the outcome of the Ryder Cup.

On paper, Zach Johnson's quartet look far stronger. Harman, Clark, Max Homa and Sam Burns have an average world ranking of 11.5 while for Europe Aberg is ranked 80th, Denmark's Nicolai Hojgaard is 82nd, Scotland's Robert MacIntyre is 55th and Austrian Sepp Straka is 22nd.

But the Ryder Cup often defies golfing logic with rookies finding inspiration amongst exalted company.

"Going into that team room with what you would call superstars, they are just normal human beings," MacIntyre told reporters. "They have taken me under their wings. It's just been brilliant and I can't wait to get going."

For American Clark, qualification for the Ryder Cup is the icing on the cake after a fairytale year.

"I can't even believe that I'm here," the 29-year-old told reporters. "I'm still pinching myself every day, and once we get started, obviously I'm going to try to be in grind mode.

"This is the pinnacle of golf and to be considered one of the top 12 American players is just such a huge honour."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)

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