In just his 11th start as a professional on the PGA Tour, Ludvig Åberg not only entered the winner’s circle for the first time at the 2023 RSM Classic but made history doing it. Scoring consecutive 61s over the final two rounds at Sea Island Golf Club, Åberg posted the lowest total over Rounds 3 and 4 of a tournament in PGA Tour history at 122.
That mark ties the PGA Tour record for lowest 36-hole score over any two rounds, while his 72-hole total of 253 similarly matched a four-round scoring record. Åberg’s 54-hole total of 186, posted over Rounds 2-4, also made PGA Tour history, according to Justin Ray.
The Swedish superstar raced past the field with a 5-under 30 on the first nine Sunday before fending off a feisty Mackenzie Hughes en route to a four-stroke victory.
“This is what you dream of as a kid,” said Åberg. “This is the sport I love and the sport that I am going to love for a very long time. Watching these events from a very young age and to see myself win is really cool.”
Additional accolades are likely come with the trophy as Åberg becomes the favorite to take home the Arnold Palmer Award presented to the Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour. The 24-year-old has ascended inside the top 50 of the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time in his career earning invitations into what will be his first two major championship appearances in the 2024 Masters and the PGA Championship.
The win also signifies the continuation of a stretch of stellar golf dating back to August. Eight straight top-15 finishes have sandwiched a sensational Ryder Cup debut with triumphs now coming on both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour. To put it simply: The floodgates have opened.
Making Åberg’s presence on this stage all the more impressive is where he was just six months ago. Arriving to the professional level through the PGA Tour University Rankings in June, Åberg was afforded status on the PGA Tour for the remainder of the 2023 season. In 2024, he would be subject to reshuffling, but that is now a non-issue for the former Texas Tech Red Raiders star.
“[The win] validates my skillset and my capabilities,” said Åberg. “If you told me this a couple months ago, I would not have believed you. To be in this position, I pinch myself in the arm, but it’s really awesome and I am so happy for me, my team and all the people that I am close with.”
Over the weekend, Åberg possessed both 36- and 54-hole leads for the first time in his PGA Tour career. He responded with a third-round 61 to maintain his edge and a final-round 61 to slam the door shut. Both performances appeared as effortless as his golf swing.
Four birdies across his first six holes saw his lead balloon to four before Hughes caught fire. Once the Swede hopped off the birdie train, the Canadian jumped on. Four straight birdies from Nos. 7-10 cut Åberg’s edge in half, but that is as close as Hughes got.
Fighting for par on 11 and unable to turn Åberg’s lone dropped shot of the tournament on the 12th into a two-shot swing, Hughes could not slither in the crack in the door. A methodical approach of fairways, greens and a few more birdies from Åberg over the final third kept Hughes at bay and gave him a well-earned first victory on the PGA Tour.
What happens next in the context of Åberg’s career is anyone’s best guess. A multiple-time winner on the PGA Tour seems certain. A multiple-time member of the European Ryder Cup team does as well. The major championships will be another new experience for the youngster in 2024, but if he handles those with the poise and grace he did the rest of the tournaments he played during first six months as a professional, Åberg should do just fine. Grade: A+
Here are the grades for the rest of the notables on the leaderboard at the 2023 RSM Classic
2. Mackenzie Hughes (-25): He gave the kid everything he could handle. After a third-round 60, Hughes hung with Åberg for the entirety of the final round only to run out of holes and lose by a pair. Completely out of sorts this summer, the Canadian looked much more like his normal self during the fall with a runner-up performance in Sea Island and top 10 at the World Wide Technology Championship. He finishes the season No. 51 in the FedEx Cup and atop The Next 10, meaning his place in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the Genesis Invitational have been secured. Not only that but Hughes put together an early campaign effort for for the 2024 Presidents Cup that is being held in his native Canada. Grade: A
T3. Eric Cole (-22): Cole rattled off eight straight 3s at one point Saturday and had the look of a man finally ready to raise a trophy on the PGA Tour. Entering the final round one stroke off the pace of Åberg, Cole quickly became an afterthought with two dropped shots in his first five holes. He was unable to recover and lost sight of the leaders, the tournament and potentially Rookie of the Year honors. Despite the disappointing end to the year, Cole will keep his chin up considering where he once was. A 57-time winner on minor league golf circuit, Cole surprised many this season with his consistent presence on leaderboards. He came close at tournaments like the Honda Classic and the Zozo Championship, changing his life in the process. Grade: A-
T8. Taylor Montgomery (-18): Montgomery’s season was defined by his fall swings. Connecting on eight top 15s in his first nine starts this year, he hit an extended lull that lasted until the FedEx Cup Fall. His good play in the early portion of his rookie campaign gave him enough breathing room to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs despite zero top 15s since the end of January. After missing the cut at the Fortinet Championship, Montgomery rattled off four straight made cuts, including a T16 at the Zozo Championship and his top 10 at the RSM Classic. His play was enough to climb inside The Next 10 and qualify for the first two signature events of 2024. Grade: A-
T11. Russell Henley (-17): In his first start since the Tour Championship in August, Henley stumbled out the gates. Uncharacteristic for a fast starter like him, Henley battled back over the final 54 holes after shaking off the early rust. His T11 is good for a career best 14th top 20 of the season and puts a bow on a stellar year. The former Georgia Bulldogs star remains one of the most underrated talents on Tour, and he is sure to be a fixture in the signature events in 2024. Grade: B
T38. Cameron Young (-12): The reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year’s sophomore campaign comes to an end in a forgettable fashion. Leading after Day 1 action, Young was unable to maintain the momentum over the final three days and slowly slipped down the leaderboard. He remains without a victory on the PGA Tour, and outside a two-tournament stretch at the John Deere Classic and The Open, he hasn’t done much since April. It is back to the drawing board for Sleepy Hollow’s finest as he is slated to next tee it up at Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge. Grade: C-