By Helen Ross
Ludvig Aberg has turned out to be a quick learner after “graduating” from PGA TOUR University as the No. 1 player in the rankings.
In just his 11th PGA TOUR start as a professional, the 24-year-old Swede won the RSM Classic by a whopping four strokes, shooting consecutive 61s on the weekend. Not that we should have been surprised – he’d already won in just his sixth start on the DP World Tour, which prompted Luke Donald to pick him for his victorious European Ryder Cup team.
Aberg set or tied six TOUR or tournament records in the victory over MacKenzie Hughes. Among them, his four-round total of 253 matched Justin Thomas at the 2017 Sony Open in Hawaii for the lowest 72-hole score in TOUR history. He also shattered the tournament record in that category by seven shots.
The 61s were Aberg’s best on TOUR, as well – and the one on Sunday matched his Ryder Cup teammate Viktor Hovland (BMW Championship) for the lowest closing round by a winner this year. The Swede has now shot 65 or better 12 times in 42 rounds on TOUR as a pro.
Aberg, who lost in a playoff in October at the Sanderson Farms Championship, only made a single bogey in 72 holes at Sea Island – the second fewest by a winner on TOUR this season. Tom Kim went bogey-free in successful title defence at the Shriners Children’s Open.
He did everything well, ranking fourth in Putts per Greens in Regulation, fifth in Driving Distance, tied for fifth in GIR and sixth in Fairways Hit. Aberg, who played collegiately at Texas Tech, gained 3.52 strokes putting on the field, third-best of any winner of the tournament.
He made 18 of his 26 birdies on the par 4s at Sea Island. His 39.13 par-4 birdie or better percentage is the best of anyone who has won the RSM Classic, too.
Villegas’ triumph is one for the good guys
On the one hand, Camilo Villegas came to the Butterfield Bermuda Championship staring Qualifying School squarely in the face. But he also had momentum after a runner-up finish at the World Wide Technology Championship in Mexico the previous week.
So, there was a lot to build on for the popular Colombian. The 30 birdies or better he had made in Mexico were a career-high – not to mention, he posted four rounds in the 60s there for just the 11th time in his career and the first since the 2017 Wyndham Championship.
At Port Royal Golf Course, Villegas proceeded to make that two in a row, breaking 70 four more times, including consecutive rounds of 65 on the weekend. He tied the tournament record of 24 under and beat Alex Noren by two strokes to win for the fifth time in his PGA TOUR career.
The victory came a distant 3,374 days since Villegas’ last victory at the 2014 Wyndham Championship. He joins Nico Echavarria, who was waiting to spray him with champagne, as Colombians to win on TOUR this year and he’s the third player in his 40s to win this season.
Villegas led the field in Greens in Regulation, hitting 59 of 72 successfully. He made 27 birdies and played his final 32 holes without dropping a shot to par.
Van Rooyen wins for his dying friend
A bogey on the par-5 opening hole at El Cardinal was an inauspicious beginning for Eric van Rooyen. But he drained a 35-footer for birdie at No. 2 that left him thinking “this is a silly game,” and he made the most of his chance at victory with a back-nine 28.
Van Rooyen’s final-round 63 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory over Camilo Villegas and Matt Kuchar included a birdie-birdie-eagle finish that made him the first player to play the final three holes in 4 under or better since Rickie Fowler won THE PLAYERS Championship in 2015.
The South African, who dedicated the win to a friend who was dying of melanoma, also is the first to eagle the 72nd hole and win since Hideki Matsuyama at the 2021 ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP. Sunday’s 63 was his 13th straight round of par or better. “(I) hust hung in there and made some fricking awesome putts on 16, 17 and 18,” van Rooyen said simply.
The putter indeed was the key to van Rooyen’s second TOUR win. He was tied for third in total putts with 118 – including his best tally of the week, just 25, in the final round. Van Rooyen, who is the third international champion of the event, also ranked second in putts per greens in regulation.