Masters Rookie Ludvig Åberg Is a Contender Not to Be Overlooked

An Augusta National rookie hasn't won a green jacket in 45 years, but Gary Van Sickle says the Swede isn't your average first-timer.
Apr 13, 2024; Augusta, Georgia, USA; Ludvig Aberg tees off on No. 12 during the third round of the
Apr 13, 2024; Augusta, Georgia, USA; Ludvig Aberg tees off on No. 12 during the third round of the / Rob Schumacher, Rob Schumacher / USA

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The back nine. Sunday. The Masters.

That’s all you need to know. No verb necessary.

It’s Saturday evening at the Masters and any number of players can still slip into the green jacket Sunday.

But something important happened Saturday that probably escaped your notice while television, the media and galleries were preoccupied with, in order, Tiger Woods, Scottie Scheffler, Tiger Woods, Max Homa, Tiger Woods, Bryson DeChambeau and, oh yeah ... Tiger Woods (now out of contention after a game 82).

The contender voted Most Likely To Be Overlooked is Ludvig Åberg. He’s 24, he’s from Sweden and he has risen faster than the price of a Big Mac combo meal in the last year. In just over 12 months, he went from star amateur golfer at Texas Tech University to, in chronological order: DP World Tour winner; Ryder Cup hero; PGA Tour champion; No. 9-ranked player in the world; and, as of Sunday, serious Masters contender.

This isn’t just Åberg’s first Masters, it’s his first major championship appearance of any kind. (Doesn’t that sound a little like the some of the remarkable things the aforementioned Woods achieved early in his career? Not that anyone is saying he is another Tiger, but …)

Åberg is in fourth place, three shots behind 54-hole leader Scottie Scheffler. He got there by shooting 69 in Friday’s high winds, the day’s low score and only number in the 60s, and by tacking on a 70 in Saturday’s third round. Only Collin Morikawa matched Åberg’s 139 total over the last 36 holes. 

“Yesterday was a normal day in Lubbock,” Aberg joked about Friday’s windswept round. “Obviously, we played in a lot of wind in Lubbock. I’m not sure if that really translates but I’m a little bit more used to it.”

First-timers aren’t supposed to win the Masters. Fuzzy Zoeller was the last to do it 45 years ago in 1979, a bit of Masters lore Åberg learned during a Tuesday pre-tournament press conference. But
Åberg is not your average first-timer, obviously. He’s already a seasoned Ryder Cupper with a 2–2 mark. He and Viktor Hovland famously swamped America’s best duo of Scheffler and Brooks Koepka in a foursomes match in Italy by a 9 and 7 score.

Åberg has a little course knowledge at The National. His college team made a visit once and he came back last month for a refresher course. He also has a caddie who knows the course well—Joe Skovron, a former caddie for Rickie Fowler and Tom Kim. Their conservative game plan, in part due to the gusty weather the first two days, has been working. Aberg briefly tied for the lead Saturday, in fact, when he two-putted the 13th hole for birdie. 

“Joe and I have been very disciplined,” Åberg said. “We’re not trying to force anything. We’re not trying to go for pins or make decisions that will cost us. We take calculated risks. We’ve been very disciplined toward our targets and hopefully we’ll do that again tomorrow.”

Åberg will play in the next-to-last twosome Sunday with Max Homa. Scheffler and Morikawa will be in the final pairing. That might help take some pressure off. Although it’s the Masters, so maybe not.
Åberg knows how big this moment is and just how big the Masters is.

“I think about it all the time and I’m O.K. thinking about it,” he said. “I don’t think you should shy away from it. I try to embrace it and be O.K. with all that comes with it.”

While average fans may not be familiar with Åberg, golf insiders were. ESPN analyst Andy North declared Åberg as the game’s next superstar in a media conference call before the Masters. Curtis Strange made Åberg his darkhorse pick to win. And ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt, after chiding Strange for making the world’s ninth-ranked player a “darkhorse pick,” expressed admiration for Åberg’s ability to seem unflappable. But, Van Pelt reasoned, “I guess you would be if you whacked it 330 down the middle. He can go, man.”

The exact moment Masters fans discovered Åberg was Friday when he birdied 12, 13 and 16 to sprint up the leaderboard. Anybody who missed that surely spotted his front-nine 33 in Saturday’s third round. He bashed a drive almost to the crosswalk at the bottom of the 9th fairway, then dropped an iron shot that landed past the pin and spun back to five feet for birdie.

He stumbled with bogeys at 14 and 15 when he didn’t get up-and-down. At 14, he putted from just over the of the green and left it six feet short then missed the par putt. He putted from off the back fringe at 15, too, and watched his birdie putt slip off to the right, then he lipped out his par putt. 

He finished strong. He dropped an iron shot right over the flagstick at the tough back-right pin location and made par. At 17, he hit another sweet approach past the pin and missed a 20-foot birdie. Ditto for 18, where his approach finished exactly where it was supposed to—pin-high left of the back-right pin. That putt curled away to the right at the cup. They were three solid birdie chances that turned into three solid pars. In other words, no cracks showed in Åberg’s game in a tense finish.

Åberg’s strength is driving it long and relatively straight. He ranks seventh in proximity to the pin in PGA Tour stats, a statistic that often identifies Masters champions. He is eighth in driving distance. His putting is middle of the pack—77th in strokes gained.

After Friday and Saturday’s showings, Åberg doesn’t look like he’s going away.

Part of his unflappable appearance may come from his genial but low-key demeanor. It could be genetic Scandinavian roll-with-the-punches practicality. Or maybe we just don’t know him well enough yet. Nothing about his position after 54 holes seems to bother him. He is enjoying the moment.

“One of the coolest things here are the really long shadows,” Åberg said. “Those are iconic at Augusta. We’re walking down No. 10 and walking up 18 and you see those shadows. It’s really cool to experience first-hand.”

Åberg will get another chance to experience those scenes but this time they will almost certainly feel different—call it a tradition unlike any other he has experienced. 

The back nine. Sunday. The Masters.

Gary Van Sickle


Van Sickle has covered golf since 1980, following the tours to 125 men’s major championships, 14 Ryder Cups and one sweet roundtrip flight on the late Concorde. He is likely the only active golf writer who covered Tiger Woods during his first pro victory, in Las Vegas in 1996, and his 81st, in Augusta. Van Sickle’s work appeared, in order, in The Milwaukee Journal, Golf World magazine, Sports Illustrated (20 years) and He is a former president of the Golf Writers Association of America. His knees are shot, but he used to be a half-decent player. He competed in two national championships (U.S. Senior Amateur, most recently in 2014); made it to U.S. Open sectional qualifying once and narrowly missed the Open by a scant 17 shots (mostly due to poor officiating); won 10 club championships; and made seven holes-in-one (though none lately). Van Sickle’s golf equipment stories usually are based on personal field-testing, not press-release rewrites. His nickname is Van Cynical. Yeah, he earned it.