Ludvig Åberg powers way to RSM lead as some seasons end Friday
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — Ludvig Åberg had a pair of two-putt birdies, one of them on a par 4, and kept bogeys off his card for the second straight day for a 6-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead into the weekend at the RSM Classic.
In the final tournament of the longest PGA Tour season, Åberg will try to end his short year with victories on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. He already won the European Masters in Switzerland, a performance that secured his spot on Europe’s winning Ryder Cup team.
Not bad for a 24-year-old Swede who only turned pro in June. Not surprising, either.
“I know my capabilities and I know my strengths,” said Åberg, who finished at Texas Tech this spring and earned a PGA Tour card as the No. 1 player in the PGA Tour University ranking. “But also, to be able to do it this quickly, probably not. It’s been so much fun.
“I still pinch myself in the morning whenever I wake up that I actually get to do this for a living, but it’s really cool and I’m looking forward to a bunch of years ahead of me.”
For now, he has 36 holes on the wind-blown Seaside course at Sea Island Golf Club, and a host of players right behind him, each facing various levels of pressure.
Åberg played the host Seaside course Friday and was at 11-under 131, one shot ahead of Eric Cole (66 at Seaside), Denny McCarthy (65 at Seaside) and Sam Ryder (67 at Plantation).
Matt Kuchar, who had a 4-under 68 on the Plantation course, was among those two behind.
A victory would move Åberg into the top 60 in the FedExCup, send him to Maui to start the new season at Kapalua and get him into the first two $20 million signature events at Pebble Beach and Riviera. He also would get into the Masters.
He still has to figure out a schedule as a joint member of the PGA Tour and European tour, although his intention is to spend most of his time in America.
This PGA Tour season began in September 2022, making it 15 months long because the Tour is switching back to a calendar year. The stakes are high for various players, as the top 125 in the FedExCup secure full cards for next year.
Andrew Novak is at No. 124 and was outside the cut line until he ran off three birdies on the back nine at Plantation. He finished with a bogey and made the cut on the number, at least getting a chance to secure his job over the next 36 holes.
Ryan Moore is at No. 128. He also was outside the cut line until four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine at Seaside. His bogey on the 18th gave him a 67 to make the cut with one shot to spare, and now it’s in his hands.
Not so fortunate were Henrik Norlander and Ryan Palmer, both outside the top 125 and both missing the cut. Palmer at least has limited status on Tour as a past champion.
The cut was at 4-under 138.
Further up the leaderboard, Ryder has a chance to move into the top 60 with a high finish, which would make him eligible for the $20 million events in California, big money and increased FedExCup points.
He surged into contention by playing the last five holes in 5 under, capping the stretch with a 3-iron to 50 feet and an eagle putt up a ridge for his 65.
“That’s really what propelled me through the fall,” Ryder said of the chance to get into the top 60. “My goal has been to try and have a good fall and play my way into the first couple signature events. I feel like it’s just going to be a really good way to start the year.”
Åberg looks like he’s just getting started on a big career. He had three straight birdies on the front nine, starting with a big drive on the 394-yard fifth hole when he cut the corner of a marsh and wound up 45 feet away on the green.
Two holes later, reached the par-5 seventh in two for a birdie, and he added couple of birdies from the 12-foot range on the back nine.
“I feel like I’ve been striking the ball quite well, which obviously is nice in the wind, which is quite tricky to kind of maneuver,” Åberg said. “I made a few par putts today ... and then it’s nice to get those momentum putts and to keep the round going a little bit. But there’s no guarantees, but if I keep doing what I’m doing today, I like my chances.”