ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Ludvig Aberg had wrapped up his post-round interview with Golf Channel and it was time move on to the next stop in the car wash of media hits. But Aberg, the 24-year-old Swedish golfer out of Texas Tech, stopped in his tracks when he caught a glimpse of Golf Channel showing his SportsCenter Top-10 worthy highlight of his hole-out birdie from 76 feet at 14.
“I want to see that,” he said, flashing a devilish grin.
It was a beauty, part of a five-hole stretch, beginning with birdie at 13 and including an eagle at 15, in which he played 6 under. On a picture-perfect warm Saturday on the Golden Isles, Aberg signed for 9-under 61 at Sea Island Resort’s Seaside Course to take a one-stroke lead over Eric Cole at the RSM Classic heading into the final round.
Cole, a 35-year-old rookie, matched Aberg with a 61, which included five birdies and an eagle on the back nine. It took Cole years of perseverance and winning more than 50 times on the Minor League Golf Tour before he made it to the big time and he’s on track to surpass $5 million in earnings this season and is one of the favorites for PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. Fifty years ago, his mother, Laura Baugh, won the equivalent award on the LPGA Tour.
Aberg, in contrast, has been a sensation, turning pro as the No. 1-ranked amateur and becoming the first player to join the Tour directly out of college by finishing No. 1 in the PGA Tour University Ranking. He won on the DP World Tour in September, was selected as a captain’s pick for the European Ryder Cup team and hasn’t finished worse than T-14 in his last four starts.
Both Aberg and Cole have lost in a playoff this season – Aberg at the Sanderson Farms Championship in October and Cole at the Honda Classic in February. If either were to win on Sunday, it likely would sway the vote for Rookie of the Year in their favor.
Aberg and Cole played together earlier this year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where Aberg was still an amateur, and in the final round of the John Deere Classic, where Aberg shot a sizzling 63. Cole was asked if he knew whether Aberg cursed in Swedish or English when he hit a bad shot and Cole smiled.
“When I played with him, there’s not much to swear about. He was playing pretty well, so I think I didn’t get any taste of that,” he said.
Not long after Aberg watched his highlight reel hole-out at 14, he settled the debate by saying that he curses his rare misfired shots in Swedish. Did he…