Rookie takes flight as two eagles lift Ludvig Aberg in Players Championship debut

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — As the eagle flies, 65 miles separate Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Georgia, from the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

And Ludvig Aberg made the eagles fly Thursday.

Firing two eagles in his first round at the Players Championship, Aberg lifted himself into the ranks of early contenders with his 5-under 67 to enter the clubhouse two strokes behind early leaders Xander Schauffele and Rory McIlroy.

Last November, Aberg announced his PGA Tour arrival, winning in dominant fashion at Sea Island in the RSM Classic. Now, four months later on the south side of the Florida-Georgia line, he’s showing no fear at the home of the PGA Tour’s signature event.

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Maybe, changes in latitudes are working wonders for the 24-year-old from Sweden.

“I love Florida. I love Jacksonville. I just happen to have been playing well in this part of the country,” he said.

No golfer has ever won the RSM Classic and The Players. Kevin Kisner has come closest: The RSM Classic champion in 2015, Kisner had qualified for a playoff at The Players earlier that year but settled for second to Rickie Fowler after an epic four-hole playoff.

But clearing hurdles is nothing new for Aberg, who already owns victories in both the U.S. and Europe as well as a top-10 berth in the Official World Golf Ranking — all in less than a year after entering professional golf.

The former Texas Tech golfer, two-time winner of the Ben Hogan Award and last year’s Haskins Award winner, earned his PGA Tour card by finishing atop last year’s PGA Tour University rankings. He notched his first DP World Tour title at the Omega European Masters at the end of summer, then picked up his first PGA Tour win in dominant style at Sea Island last November. There, he shot a 29-under 253 to defeat Mackenzie Hughes by four strokes.

Though not a newcomer to the Stadium Course — Aberg competed here six years ago at the Junior Players, finishing five strokes behind eventual winner Travis Vick — he tackled Thursday’s first round like a seasoned veteran.

“Obviously we played in August, so it was a little different Bermuda everywhere, but yeah, visually it’s the same golf course [as in 2018],” Aberg said. “I was a little bit thinner and a little bit smaller back a couple years ago, so I didn’t hit the ball quite as far, but AJGA put up an amazing tournaments for us at Junior Players, and this definitely helped me this week.”

Starting on the back nine, Aberg, one of 23 first-timers in the tournament in 2024, made his first eagle at the par-5 No. 16, hitting driver and 7-iron to find the green in two and sinking a putt from just inside 8 feet.

It was more of the same at the par-5 No. 2, when a 324-yard drive set up a precise approach to the green and a 12-footer to make eagle.

Coming after four consecutive top-25 finishes on the PGA Tour — a tie for ninth at the Farmers Insurance Open, second at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, a tie for 19th at the Genesis Invitational and a tie for 25th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational — a breakthrough moment could be on the way for the fast-rising Aberg.

“I didn’t try to do anything extra today, just tried to keep playing the way I did over the weekend last weekend at Bay Hill,” he said. “I felt like I was striking the ball quite well and putting myself in good positions and took advantage of a little bit softer conditions this morning.”

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