Ludvig Aberg prepared for first major start at ANGC

Ludvig Aberg prepared for first major start at ANGC

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Ludvig Aberg is a Masters rookie, competing in his first major championship despite having already played in the Ryder Cup and reached the top 10 in the world. How aware is he that no first-timer has won the Masters since Fuzzy Zoeller 45 years ago?

“I actually didn’t know that stat up until just now,” he said on Tuesday during his pre-tournament press conference. “I think that speaks to the difficulty of the golf course and the difficulty of some of the things that you might get thrown at you in the tournament. But I can’t really do a whole lot about that.”

The 24-year-old Swede, who qualified as winner of the PGA Tour’s RSM Classic, has made a rapid ascension from top-ranked amateur in the world a year ago out of Texas Tech to a winner on the DP World Tour, too, and a threat to hoist a trophy any time he tees it up. But could he be the first Masters first-timer to win since 1979?

Masters: Thursday tee times | Tournament hub

“I had a chance in Hawaii to walk around and watch him play a bunch. I think this is our next superstar,” said ESPN’s Andy North, a two-time U.S. Open winner, during a pre-tournament conference call with media. “I’m so impressed with him. I love the way he plays the game. I love the way he attacks it. Doesn’t fiddle around much. Just gets up and hits it and plays golf. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he does this week. I think Augusta National could be a great place for him. Yeah, he’s a young guy and hasn’t played there much, but I think that he’s got a chance to have a great week.”

Curtis Strange, a fellow two-time U.S. Open champion and ESPN commentator, tabbed Aberg as his Masters dark horse.

“In the last week, some of my researchers at ESPN said how can he be a dark horse? I said, well, he’s never played in a major before. He’s only 24. He’s come on the scene so quickly. He dominated the college scene. He’s dominated whenever he’s played throughout his whole life, which is very short,” Strange said. “If we won there, it wouldn’t surprise anybody, I don’t think.”

“I want to say for the record that Curtis has picked the ninth-ranked player in the world as his dark horse. Out there on a really, really wiggly limb,” cracked ESPN’s host of the network’s Masters coverage, Scott Van Pelt. “Aberg’s awesome. Everything they said is true. His demeanor is the thing I like the best. He just seems totally unflappable, which I guess you’d be if you whacked the thing 330 down the middle all the time. He can go, man.”

Aberg, who played Augusta National as a freshman in college with his team shortly before COVID-19, returned for the first time two weeks ago for a scouting trip and said he’s counting on the experience of his veteran caddie, Joe Skovron. Aberg also can count on the counsel of former Swedish pro Peter Hanson, who has served as a mentor and helped him quite a bit with his short game.

“I remember we worked a little bit at Players and he was trying to show me this shot. And he just steps up, and he makes it,” Aberg said. “So that’s the kind of teacher he is, and I’m learning a lot from him.”

Aberg still recalls watching the final round of the 2012 Masters when Hanson played in the final group, shooting 73 and ultimately finishing T-3. “I didn’t know him at the time, and it’s pretty cool that I’ve gotten to know him quite well over the last couple years, and he’s been telling me stories,” Aberg said.

As he approaches his major debut, Aberg was asked to name the major he most dreamed of winning growing up. “It was this, the Masters, definitely,” he said.

But a dark horse? Definitely not, first-timer or not.

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