Ludvig Åberg wasn’t the main focus Saturday at the RSM Classic, but by the end of the day, the rookie held all the attention.
He carded a bogey-free 9-under 61 to sit at 20-under with 18 holes to play. It didn’t matter if he was on top of the leaderboard or down by a couple of shots, the 24-year-old showed incredible resilience.
“I try to do the same thing every hole that I play, but sometimes it just seems a little bit easier,” Åberg said. “I stayed patient today, and I feel like I did a good job of that. The first three or four holes are not easy, so I stayed patient through those and made a few nice par putts. Luckily, it paid off today.”
His birdie on the par-4 13th sparked a run for him. But it was his chip-in for birdie on 14 that really accelerated his momentum. Åberg made birdie or better on five of the final six holes.
Following Friday, Åberg held the 36-hole lead in a PGA Tour event for the first time. He easily could have cracked on moving day, especially as those around him were seemingly birdieing every hole early on. At one point, the Swede found himself a few back of the lead.
Instead, his patience worked as he posted his third straight bogey-free round.
The Swedish golfer leads in strokes gained tee-to-green and strokes gained total. He is gaining 9.4 on average against the field. Åberg is also gaining over two strokes off the tee, which ranks second in the tournament.
“I do feel like off the tee’s is one of my strengths. I like hitting driver; I feel like I do that quite well, so I try to use it as much as I can,” Åberg said.
However, he does acknowledge that there are elements to his game that can be improved upon to remain in contention.
‘I need to get a little bit better at approach shots and then short game around the green,” he said. “If you play a tournament like this, you’re going to need to get the ball up and down to make birdie putts. You don’t win the tournament unless you do that. Try to do that on a more consistent basis, but that’s what you try to do.”
Plenty of players took advantage of the perfect conditions on the Seaside Course, but two were red hot.
Mackenzie Hughes just missed a birdie putt on 18 to card a 59. He settled for a 60 to sit two shots back at 18-under. Meanwhile Eric Cole made eight birdies, an eagle, and a bogey. He is one shot behind Åberg at 19-under.
Neither guy could miss as they passed the lead back and forth most of the day.
The former Texas Tech Red Raider could have let their momentum affect his game, but that didn’t happen.
Every time Hughes or Cole put another red figure on the board, Åberg responded with a birdie or eagle of his own. He was very decisive with his shot selection and didn’t let what others were doing affect his game plan.
“Once I make a decision, I try to go with it,” he said. “Sometimes — I was saying before, my tendency’s to get a little bit quick. I’m already a quick player, but sometimes it goes too fast. I try to almost calm myself down a little bit, but also stay decisive in the decisions that I make.”
His relative inexperience has not hindered his play and helped him avoid looking ahead.
“I had a few of those experiences when you’re in the lead or close to the lead in tournaments. Even in college, you feel that pressure, and your heart rate gets amped up a little bit,” Åberg said. “It’s natural; it’s a part of human behavior, but I try to take it for what it is and work on it.”
The No. 53 player on the OWGR (Official World Golf Rankings) is 18 holes away from earning his first PGA Tour victory. That would also place him into the Masters 2024 field.
He already won on the DP World Tour earlier this year at the Omega European Masters but is ready to get over the hump in the States.
If he plays with this same resilience and patience, Åberg could see himself hoisting that trophy on Sunday evening.
Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.