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Aberg keeps pace with a 61, leads season-ending RSM Classic by 1 shot


San SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — Ludvig Aberg ran four birdies and an eagle over a stretch of five holes on the nine on Saturday, not so much to go but to keep up. He had a 9-under 61 for a one-shot lead on an unusually low-scoring day in the RSM Classic.

Mackenzie Hughes narrowly missed a point for a 59. Eric Cole came up short with a sub-60 round at Sea Island. Half a dozen players had at least a share of the final game at some point.

Aberberg, the rising Swedish star who only turned professional in June after finishing at Texas Tech, led the pack en route to his first PGA Tour victory.

“He stayed patient and it paid off today,” Aberg said. “You get a lot of wedges on the back nine, and then a 15 on a reachable par 5. I felt like I was hitting the ball well. I was hitting the fairways, except for 14, But other than that, I felt that I hit. The ball benefited well and kindly from slightly easier conditions today.”

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He was 20 under 192, one shot ahead of Cole (61) and two clear of Hughes (60).

Aberberg started his big run with an 8-foot birdie putt on the 13th. He chipped in from 75 feet on the next hole, made a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-5 15th, holed another 8 footer on the 16th and capped it with a tee shot that went a foot off the hole at the par-3 17th.

Everyone else was doing the same thing.

As for players who say they don’t know they have a chance to shoot 59, Hughes is not one of them.

“When I eagled 15, I thought if I can run the table, that would be 59,” he said. “I was kind of licking my chops down 18. But unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”

He made sure to run, after the eagle with a pair of birdie putts from the 12-foot range and a good look just outside 15 feet on the 18th. Hughes thought the mat would break back slightly to the left, but he stayed right and took off his cap in disbelief.

“I’m delighted,” said Hughes, who also shot 60 in the first round of the 2020 Travelers Championship. “But you can’t help but feel a little disappointed. often. You have a putt like that, you want to bury it more than anything.”

Right behind him was Cole, chipping away and making it look easy. There was nothing simple about the par-5 15th, where his tee shot bounced off a bunker and stayed near the edge. He hit it low and hard and watched it run onto the green, inches from the cup and set up just over 3 feet for eagle which allowed him to regain the lead.

Aber had the last word on Saturday.

It could be quite the battle on Sunday at Sea Island.

Cole is considered a front-runner for PGA Tour rookie of the year for his consistent play, reaching the second stage of the FedEx Cup playoffs and already guaranteed to be in all of the $20 million signature events next year. A win would seal that honor.

A win for Aberberg might give him the nod, especially given his short season. He was the No. 1 player. 1 in PGA Tour University, which gave him a tour card. He already has three top 10s, as well as his first pro win at the European Masters, which secured his place on the Ryder Cup team for Europe. Now he’s looking to close out the PGA Tour season with a win.

Tyler Duncan shot 62 and was three back at 17 under 195. Sam Ryder (65) was five back. Aberberg has yet to drop a shot over 54 holes.

The RSM Classic is the final event of the PGA Tour season, with the top 125 receiving full cards for 2024. Ryan Moore came in at No. 128 – that followed a tie for fifth at the Bermuda Championship last week – and shot a 62. He was seven shots behind, probably too far behind to catch Aberg, but in good shape for his card keep.

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