The Ludvig Aberg hype train left the station a few months ago and golf fans have slowly been climbing on as the 23-year-old has continued to excel throughout the early stage of his career.
World No. 2 Rory McIlroy has been riding the train for a while now, but he might be the conductor after getting to know Europe’s rising star in Italy on a team scouting trip ahead of the 2023 Ryder Cup later this month.
“It was amazing. I’m sort of surprised it’s the first time we’d ever really done it,” said McIlroy during his pre-tournament press conference for the DP World Tour’s BMW PGA Championship at the Wentworth Club in Surrey, England. “Yeah, there’s a few new faces on the team and I thought it was a great exercise in terms of getting to know one another a little bit better. I had an opportunity to play with Ludvig for the first time on Monday, which I was excited about. I told him, ‘I said I’ve been looking forward to this for a while.’”
Four months ago Aberg was competing for Texas Tech at the NCAA Championship. Fast forward to today and he’s a winner on the European-based tour and being complimented profusely by one of the best players of a generation. Life comes at you fast when you’re playing good golf.
“Everyone talks about what a great driver of the golf ball he is and. … which he is. The ball-striking is incredible,” McIlroy said of Aberg while noting he even exceeded his already high expectations. “But I was really impressed with his wedge play and how he can sort of control his trajectory with shorter clubs. I was on the bandwagon before. Certainly at the front of it now.”
Later in the day Aberg told reporters that he and Viktor Hovland played a best-ball match against McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood on Monday and that he and Hovland won on the 16th hole, “which was fun.”
While the level of praise may be new, McIlroy going to bat for younger plays is anything but. Almost a year ago to the day he had this to say about how Team Europe was in need of a rebuild:
“I think the European Team has a core of six or seven guys that I think we all know are pretty much going to be on that team, and then it’s up to some of the younger guys to maybe step up.”
“But I think we were in need of a rebuild, anyway. It was sort of, we did well with the same guys for a very long time but again as I just said, everything comes to an end at some point. I think Whistling Straits is a good sort of demarcation, I guess.
“That’s all behind us. We have got a core group of guys but let’s build on that again, and instead of filling those three or four spots with older veterans, let’s blood some rookies and let’s get them in and build towards the future. I think that’s important.”
Luke Donald and his staff of vice captains agreed as the Europeans will bring four rookies to Rome – Robert MacIntyre, Sepp Straka, Nicolai Hojgaard and Aberg – three of which were captain’s picks.
“It’s a transitional time for the European Ryder Cup team,” said McIlroy, doubling down on his comments from a year prior. “There’s guys that have been amazing Ryder Cuppers for two decades, basically, and you know, unfortunately things move on and you need to try to bring in some fresh talent. We certainly have that this year in terms of someone like Sepp who came on the scene the last couple years and has played some great golf.”
“I felt like the 12 of us are on the same level, there’s no type of hierarchy on the team,” he added. “Just making the new guys as comfortable as possible. To me, that’s a really cool thing about the last couple days.”