This article is part of our Weekly PGA Recap series.
It didn't happen in a major, it was only The RSM Classic. It took place in the very un-golf-like month of November. And it was a mere speck on the sports landscape opposite a behemoth known as a late autumn weekend of NFL and college football.
But Ludvig Aberg delivered one the greatest weeks on the PGA Tour imaginable.
Aberg broke or tied a series of all-time scoring records in shooting a 29-under-par 253 to win The RSM Classic by four strokes.
As the longest PGA Tour season on record came to a close, this week was supposed to be about the the Top 125 and the Next 10 in the FedExCup Standings, the DP World Tour graduates, plus the Race to Dubai culminating with the DP World Tour Championship that was stunningly won by Aberg's Ryder Cup teammate Nicolai Hojgaard. We'll get to all that in short order.
But not before we detail how golf's newest superstar fired a resounding warning shot announcing himself on the world stage.
Here's what Aberg, the Swede who turned 24 just three weeks ago, did across four days on St. Simons Island, Ga.
- Tied the lowest 72-hole total ever shot on the PGA Tour of 253, set by Justin Thomas at the 2017 Sony Open
- Set the lowest 54-hole total ever, 186, after shooting 64-61-61 in the second through fourth rounds
- Tied the lowest 36-hole total ever, 122, with those twin 61s on the weekend
- Set the lowest total ever for the final 36 holes of a tournament
- Set The RSM Classic scoring record by SEVEN shots
- Became the first golfer to win on both the PGA and DP World Tours in his first 14 tournaments as a professional
When asked about all those records in his victory news conference, Aberg responded:
"Yeah, I felt like I was striking the ball very well all week." [Editor's note: Ya think?]
Aberg continued: "To be honest, I feel like I've been striking the ball quite well over the last couple of months. It's just one of those weeks where everything kind of comes together."
That's right, he has been striking the ball well for, well, his entire professional career. Of course, it started only in May. Aberg immediately got his PGA Tour card after finishing first atop the inaugural PGA Tour University standings following a storied college career at Texas Tech. He won the Omega European Masters in September. He also was runner-up at the Sanderson Farms. He has yet to play in a major. But of course, that is about to change.
Aberg moved to 32nd in the world rankings and shot up to 53rd in the FedExCup Standings, getting into the Next 10 at the last possible moment. He'll play in the Masters in April after the 2024-opening Sentry tournament, then two more Signature events at Pebble Beach and Riviera.
"Yeah. I mean, when you put it like that, it's quite surreal," Aberg told reporters. "If you would have told me this a couple months ago, I would not have believed you. But it makes me emotional to think about it, but it's really, really cool."
Toward the end of his news conference, Aberg was asked when he realized he was "good enough to do this."
He said: "I started playing very well in college and I started winning tournaments in college. I think the whole concept of winning a tournament, I just fell in love with it. I just absolutely love it. There's something very weird and special about it. You know, you just want to do it again and again and again.'
Aberg has already done it and done it again. There are a lot more agains in his future, and not just on the PGA Tour. He seems poised, along with Nicolai Hojgaard, to give future U.S. Ryder Cup captains headaches for years to come.
Hughes surely did not want the season to end. After winning the 2022 Sanderson Farms (at the beginning of this season), his game fell off. He didn't have another top-10 in a stroke-play event until Mexico two weeks ago. And now at the RSM, he was runner-up. Hughes had fallen out of the top-100 in the world rankings but is now back to 65th.
Cole did it again, tying for third for his fourth top-5 showing of the fall season. He's now up to a career-best 41st in the world.
Duncan is another guy who had a terrible season until recently. He had top-20s at the Sanderson Farms and Shriners, and now added tie for third.
The 2022 RSM champion defended his title admirably, tying for fifth. He's now up to 58th in the world.
In his first action in three months, McCarthy impressively tied for fifth. Will he break through and win in 2024?
The 2023 Korn Ferry Tour's leader in points tied for fifth, giving him a second top-10 in 55 career PGA Tour starts.
Francesco Molinari, Padraig Harrington, Jimmy Walker, Zach Johnson, Billy Horschel, Davis Love III, Mark Hubbard. It was odd seeing Molinari and Harrington in this tournament at the end of the year. … Walker was inside the top-125 after the Wyndham, the traditional cutoff point for Tour cards, but had a terrible fall to lose out. … Johnson was playing his first tournament since captaining the Ryder Cup team. … Horschel has a lot of work to do after his poorest season in years, finishing 111th in points. … This was Love's third tournament of the year and he didn't make a cut. … Hubbard began the week at 61st in the standings and obviously had a good chance to get inside the Next 10 with a decent showing. It was Hubbard's 39th tournament of the season, a single-season PGA Tour record (since 1983).
The Top 125
Ryan Moore, who played this season via his one-time career-earnings exemption, tied for eighth at the RSM to move from 128th in the standings to 118th. In the process, he knocked out Carl Yuan, who dropped from 125th to 126th after tying for 68th.
Notables who finished out the top-125 were Maverick McNealy, Patton Kizzire, C.T. Pan, Ryan Palmer, Scott Piercy, Cameron Champ and Jimmy Walker. Champ, however, is exempt through next season because of his tournament win. McNealy may get a medical exemption after missing much of 2023. The others will have conditional status in the 126-150 category.
The Top 150
It's all relative. While it's a big disappointment for the golfers listed above to have to play out of the 126-150 category, those who jumped inside at the last possible moment are thrilled.
With a fantastic late fall run, culminating with a T19 at the RSM, Kelly Kraft moved into the top-150. Vince Whaley (T13) also did. They knocked out Paul Haley II (MC) and Webb Simpson (MC), though Simpson is exempt through 2026. Kraft said after the RSM that he still is headed to Q School to try to get his hands on one of the five full cards that will be handed out.
The Next 10
With Aberg moving from 96th in the standings to 53rd, Alex Smalley was the odd man out, falling from 57th to 61st. Smalley's T44 finish was quite expensive, knocking him out of the Signature events at Pebble Beach and Riviera, though he still has time to play his way back in.
DP WORLD TOUR
The season-long Race to Dubai came to a close with the DP World Tour Championship. In a formality, Rory McIlroy won his fifth Order of Merit. The real drama came in the tournament, where Hojgaard went on a five-hole birdie tear on the back nine to beat Viktor Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood by two strokes. Jon Rahm tied for fifth in a field loaded with European Ryder Cuppers.
Hojgaard is younger than Aberg at 22. He moved to No. 50 in the world and will be competing on the PGA Tour next season (he already had his card before Sunday, based on non-member points). In a cruel twist, his twin brother Rasmus Hojgaard barely missed grabbing one of the PGA Tour cards that go to the top-10 players in the season-long DP World Tour standings not already exempt.
The 10: Adrian Meronk, Ryan Fox, Victor Perez, Thorbjorn Olesen, Alexander Bjork, Sami Valimaki, Robert MacIntyre, Jorge Campillo, Ryo Hisatsune and Matthieu Pavon, birdied his final four holes to overtake Rasmus Hojgaard.
As for McIlroy, he is now one title behind Seve Ballesteros and three behind Colin Montgomerie. His goal is to catch them.
"Yeah, still got a little bit left in the tank," the world No. 2 told reporters in Dubai. "I think I've still got a good eight to 10 years left in me where I can play at the top, top level.
"Yeah, I'd like to think that I'm going to challenge, at least try to get past Seve and then sort of try to get past Monty as well. But it's certainly a goal of mine for the rest of my career to do something like that. It would mean a lot to me."