Ludvig Aberg. A good start

Thought for the Day
A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours

Too much too soon?
My first reaction, on hearing that Luke Donald had named Ludvig Aberg as one of his Ryder Cup wild-card picks was that this was too great a burden to place on the shoulders of a 23-year-old rookie. At the time of the announcement, he had been a pro for less than 80 days and played in nine events, albeit having won one of them. And then you dig a little deeper and find that even these stats only tell a part of the story.

Before joining the paid ranks he was the number-one ranked amateur golfer in the world, with a stellar college career behind him. In 2022 and 2023 he won the Ben Hogan Award as the best college player in the USA, becoming only the second golfer to achieve the feat twice, after Jon Rahm in 2016 and ’17. After turning pro and playing on the PGA Tour, he made the cut in his first event, the RBC Canadian Open, and landed a tied-4th finish at the John Deere Classic after a final round 63.

Luke Donald then suggested he play a few events in Europe and his astonishing rise gathered even more momentum as he finished fourth in the D+D Real Czech Masters before winning the Omega European Masters. If he had managed to also capture the DP World Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, having held the 54-hole lead, he would have become only the second pro golfer after Tiger Woods to win twice in his first 10 events.

There are, however, many other reasons to like and admire this remarkable young man. Standing at 6’ 3”, he wasn’t hit by too many branches when he fell out of the ugly tree and he goes about his business in a remarkably brisk and purposeful way. Having decided which club to hit, he addresses the ball before sending it on its way with a minimum of fuss, tics, twitches or agonising over external factors such as the position of Saturn in the cosmos, wind speed and direction, humidity or anything else. He appears to have an unflappable temperament that treats Kipling’s two imposters of triumph and disaster just the same. All in all, he’s a pleasure to watch.

I also admire the fact that while still an amateur he turned down an offer of $2.5 million for a two-year contract with LIV Golf but the absolute kicker for me is that he is a lifelong supporter of the Mighty Red Machine that is Liverpool FC and as a child dreamed of playing at Anfield. Okay, maybe that’s not the most relevant golfing recommendation on his CV.

In order to get some insight into how he might perform at Marco Simone G&CC at the end of September, it is worth looking at the performances of captain’s picks, as analysed by Golf Digest earlier this month. In home matches, which of course it is this year for Europe, those selected by their captain enjoy a 51.67% win rate and the all-time win rate is a fraction under 52%. This stat is slightly skewed, however, by the remarkable Ian Poulter, who was a captain’s pick five times and whose 68% winning ratio is the best of any European golfer with five or more appearances.

Rookies, however, have performed less well for Europe, with an overall record of 78 wins, 101 halves and 37 losses since the competition began. However, this statistic is also skewed by the decades of American domination in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. What it also means is that, when it comes to predicting the outcome of a Ryder Cup (or any other golf event), statistics mean diddly squat and it boils down to who runs hot and has the temperament to cope in the cauldron of this biennial slugfest. Thomas Pieters, for example, played in his only Ryder Cup in 2016 as a captain’s pick and became the first rookie from this side of the pond to win five points out of five.

It’s a big ask to expect Ludvig Aberg to do the same but I wouldn’t put it past him.

Quote of the Week
However unlucky you may be, it really is not fair to expect your adversary’s grief for your undeserved misfortunes to be as poignant as your own
Horace Hutchinson

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