Golf

'Next Tiger Woods' arrived at Masters. Here's 1 reason why he'll soon win it

Pinehurst #10 opened last week. Want to play it?
Ludvig Aberg on the 9th hole at Augusta National on Sunday.
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AUGUSTA, Ga. — The ‘next f***ing’ Tiger Woods? 
He’s smoking a tee.
It’s a little before 2:30 in the afternoon on Sunday at Augusta National, where he’s waiting to hit his first ball during the final round of his first Masters, and a white tee is pressed between his lips — which sorta looks like a cigarette. The scene is extraordinarily cool. James Dean vibes. Shoot, Palmer and Hogan once posed that way here. When it’s his turn to play, Aberg even removes the tee as if it were a heater. Pay no heed that he’s just 18 holes and a three-shot deficit from winning the freaking Masters. Time to fire it up.  
But what did you think you’d get from Ludvig Aberg?
Nerves? 
Maybe not this, though. The kids don’t usually win the Masters, nor do the newbies, and the Swede is all of only 24, fresh out of school, and making his first appearance in not just the Masters but any major. But he’s different, they say. College and amateur winner. Professional winner. European Ryder Cup member and winner. He’s already a champion once on the DP World Tour. He’s already a champion on the PGA Tour, that W coming last November at the RSM Classic
There, we heard this story. Sean Martin, a writer with the PGA Tour, said he’d been at a Starbucks in Sea Island, Georgia, and that two “Tour winners” were there, too, talking. Wondering. Trying to calculate what the also-rans make. Tweeted Martin:
“Player 1: ‘There is no world where we’d be able to beat Ludvig on a consistent basis.’
“Player 2: ‘I didn’t really know who he was. After playing 6 holes with him, I thought he was the next f***ing Tiger Woods.’”
Heady stuff. 
You’ve heard of Woods. He’s won at Augusta. Wears red. He’s here this week, too, though things are winding down, and folks have been itching for a while to anoint the second coming. Scottie Scheffler? Yes, and more on him in a sec. Jon Rahm? Maybe. Rory McIlroy? Maybe. Brooks Koepka? Maybe. 
But then here rumbles Aberg, with more tools than a Home Depot. 
Look at him on the range early Sunday afternoon at Augusta, where he’d posted rounds of one-over 73, 69 and 70 since Thursday. Drivers, irons, wedges. Strong. But nothing outta place. He’s a little questionable with his short game (109th in SG: Around the Green this season on the PGA Tour), but most everything else is out of a how-to-golf Google search. Look at his tee ball on 1. Down the middle. Look at his second shot on 1. Center of the green, 14 feet away. Only a clock is more on time. He’s also patient. McIlroy lately has expounded about that virtue, especially at Augusta. The track tempts. You can make birdies. But that’s the tease. It’s a trap. Don’t overindulge. Just nibble. Jump when the number is right. 
Woods did that.    
Look at that putt on 2. His second shot on the par-5 had sprayed over the green, and his chip on was meh, but he rolled in a 22-footer for birdie. Look at that iron on 7. It led to another birdie. Look at that putt on 9. A 36-footer for birdie. He walked off tied for the lead with Scheffler, the 2022 winner, with nine holes to play. Aberg smiled mischievously. The chase was on. 
Woods relished those. 
Look at that second shot on 11. It sunk in the water. He double-bogeyed. 
Yeah, Woods tripped, too. But actually here’s why you clicked on this story. Here’s saying the next f***ing Tiger Woods will very soon win a Masters because of this:
We’ll call it Woods-ability. Jordan Spieth actually once talked about this, in talking about Woods. “The number one thing that struck me every round that we’ve played together is that he’ll get mad, but he won’t get negative,” Spieth said a while back on a podcast. “I’ve never heard him get negative. … He’ll hit a shot, and he’ll let himself know about it. But it’s mad. It’s not, ‘I can’t figure this out.’ There’s no can’t. ‘Or I’m struggling with this.’ It’s literally just him to himself, gets the anger out and then moves on. I’ve never once heard him be negative.” 
And Aberg after 11?
He hit a solid tee ball on the par-3 12th. 
Aberg birdied the par-5 13th. 
Aberg birdied the par-4 14th. 
Woods-ian. 
Afterward, I wondered about it all. The ability to flush out the bad, then hit flush shots. To be Teflon. To bounce back. 
“You double-bogey 11 and you come back with a solid tee ball on 12, birdie 13, birdie 14. Can you describe how you were able to regroup? What was the thought process there after what happened on 11 to then bounce back like you did?”
“Yeah, obviously it wasn’t ideal to hit it in the water on 11, I think we all know that,” Aberg said. “I mean, I felt like me — me and my team, we’ve focused a lot on just keep playing no matter what happens. I think if you just keep playing, skills are going to show up. I think once you stop playing, that’s when you — the skills are not showing up, and I think we did a great job of that.
It was a good example of just keep playing, just to make sure to keep the ball in front of you, and there’s a lot of holes left to be played. 
“I think me finishing well after those couple holes were pretty encouraging to see.”
Scheffler just finished better, though. 
He birdied 8, 9 and 10. He bogeyed 11. Then he birdied 12, 14, 16. No one caught him. Probably no one could. But Aberg didn’t shrink, either. Maybe a few others did. The PGA Championship is also coming up in a month, and a reporter told Aberg that his coach, longtime pro Peter Hanson, told him that he can’t wait for the year’s second major. His guy would be there. 
“I think I’ve always tried to be positive I think, you know,” Aberg said, “This place has so many nuances to it, so many subtle things off the greens and off the tee that I trust my caddie, Joe [Skovron], a lot with, and he’s helped me tremendously this week in terms of those things.
“You know, we felt like we did a great job. It’s a fine balance between being aggressive to the right spots and not being overly aggressive. Because you can put yourself in some really tough, tricky spots. I felt like we did a good job all week of making sure that at least you have a chance of getting up-and-down and all these things.”
At the least, Scheffler could have a rival. He’s playing other-planet-type golf now, but what if there were someone who could punch back? Golf could use that. 
But maybe there’s more with Aberg. A few people think so. 
They don’t seem to be blowing smoke, either. 
“A couple of your Ryder Cup teammates this week have suggested that you’re a future world No. 1 and it’s obviously not an easy thing to achieve without that expectation but how do you feel when people like Rory McIlroy or Shane Lowry say these things about you?”
“Well, it’s very flattering,” Aberg said. “It’s very nice of them to say those things. They don’t have to say those things. But I think, you know, to me, it just tells me that we are doing some good things, me and my team, and we’re probably not going to change a whole lot. 
“But obviously hearing those things from Rory and those guys is very, very encouraging.”

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.
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