Ludvig Aberg teed off his first round at the BMW PGA Championship on Thursday among the most vaunted of golf company — Ryder Cup teammates and two of the hottest players on the planet right now in Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland — and upstaged the vastly experienced pair by shooting a four-under 68.
The fourth Rolex Series event of the season got under way and the trio teed off before 9am local time, with a bumper crowd in tow at Wentworth.
With things outside the ropes close to perfect, Swede Aberg — who only turned professional in June — set about achieving a similar result inside as he made five birdies in a row from the 11th to fly up the leaderboard and challenge for the lead.
A double-bogey on the 17th somewhat stalled his progress but he birdied the last to finish at four-under and was happy with his day’s work.
“It was great,” he said. “A little bit more people than I’m used to following me around. It was really fun playing with those two guys. Obviously the level of golf that they can do is pretty amazing and for me to watch that is pretty cool.
“I was kind of walking around and then almost pinched myself in the arm on the fairways but really enjoyed it and proud of the way I handled it today.”
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While Aberg will be making his Ryder Cup debut in Italy later this month, Hovland will be playing in his second after recently winning the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour.
The duo may be separated by just two years in age but Hovland is vastly the more senior player in terms of experience, and he believes weeks like this in front of huge crowds will help Aberg in Rome.
“I think it’s a good experience for him,” said the Norwegian after shooting a 69. “The way he’s played the last couple of months, he has not been a pro very long but he certainly doesn’t look scared of the moment. So I think it’s just a great experience for him but I think he’s ready regardless.
“Ludvig was certainly on a heater mid-round and the crowd was loving it.
“Hopefully we can make a few more birdies and less mistakes to get the crowds going but just a great atmosphere here.”
“This is what I’ve been wanting to do for such a long time and for me to actually be here, to actually play in these events that I’ve watched for such a long time is pretty cool. I try to embrace it and I try to have fun with it and take it for what it is.”
Aberg was level par at the turn after a birdie on the fourth and bogey on the ninth but he put an approach to two feet at the 11th, capitalised on the par-five 12th, hit more smart irons into the 13th and 14th and holed a long putt on the 15th to rattle off five birdies.
A tee-shot out of bounds on the 17th saw him fall back but he made a two-putt birdie on the last to give himself a solid start.
“I hit some nice iron shots,” he said. “I feel like this golf course is pretty straightforward. If you put the ball in front of you off the tee you get a lot of mid-irons.
“Luckily today I hit a few nice ones and obviously made a few putts as well. I think that’s what I’ve got to keep doing and just take it for what it is.”