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Europe captain Luke Donald hailed Ludvig Aberg as a “generational” talent after handing him a wild card and backing a team with four “fearless” rookies to regain the Ryder Cup.
Former world number one amateur Aberg only turned professional in June, but won the final qualifying event in Switzerland on Sunday with a final round of 64 at Crans-sur-Sierre.
The 23-year-old Swede has made the quickest transition from the amateur ranks to the Ryder Cup in the contest’s history, eclipsing the previous record set by Sergio Garcia, who made his debut in 1999 after turning professional following April’s Masters.
Aberg was selected along with Tommy Fleetwood, Sepp Straka, Shane Lowry, Justin Rose and Nicolai Hojgaard, with Poland’s Adrian Meronk arguably the most unfortunate to miss out after winning the Italian Open at the host venue in May.
The six wild cards join automatic qualifiers Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Matt Fitzpatrick, Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton and Robert MacIntyre in Donald’s team, which will attempt to regain the trophy at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club following a record 19-9 thrashing two years ago.
Speaking about Aberg, Donald said: “We obviously knew what he was doing in the college scene. You look at what he did in those four years and the only comparables really were Viktor Hovland and Jon Rahm. He is that good.
“I played with him in Detroit and was blown away by his game. He was a cool nine under through 16 holes like it was nothing. He was calm, collected, he made everything look very simple and he hits a lot of quality shots.
“I haven’t played a lot with Jon Rahm, I got to watch Viktor for three matches at Whistling Straits and was really impressed with his ball-striking. When Rory was breaking out I thought ‘this kid is special’ and Ludvig fits in that.
“He continued to impress and I challenged him to come over to Europe and play a couple (of events).
“He was fifth (tied fourth) in the Czech Masters and you know what he did yesterday. It was like a walk in the park for him and for someone that is so inexperienced, it was just so, so impressive.
“I really do have a lot of faith and belief in Ludvig. He is a generational player, he’s going to be around a long time and he’s going to do amazing things.
“If he wasn’t going to play this one he was going to play the next eight Ryder Cups, that’s how good I think he is.
“He proved it on Sunday, he’s a cool customer too. The statistics show he would be the number one driver this year, ahead of Rory and Scottie Scheffler.
“I am happy to have four rookies on the team. In 2004 I was one of five and we did just fine. These young kids are ready and fearless.”
Aberg said: “Thinking about getting that call from Luke gives me goosebumps. These are the events you want to be a part of.
He is a generational player, he’s going to be around a long time and he’s going to do amazing things
Luke Donald on Ludvig Aberg
“You want to have that shot or putt to win a match. I’ve been fortunate to be part of team events before, although I understand this is at a different level. But I am up for the challenge.”
Rose, who will make his sixth Ryder Cup appearance in Rome, conceded initial thoughts of picking Aberg had sounded “incredibly premature”, but added: “He has absolutely backed it up.
“I was aware of this European stud turning pro and he’s one of the players who has a very-impressive game to the point where, in the evening if you haven’t watched any coverage, you go to his Shot Tracker and you go ‘Oh my God’, he hit it 340 yards down the middle of that fairway.
“He has a couple of weapons that are not necessarily at everyone’s disposal.”
Away from Aberg, Donald praised Straka for travelling from Maui to Abu Dhabi to take part in January’s inaugural Hero Cup, where Hojgaard – who is another winner at Marco Simone – went unbeaten as a late replacement for his injured twin brother Rasmus.
And the former world number one insisted he had no concerns over the form of 2019 Open champion Lowry, who has not recorded a top 10 finish in 2023.
“He’s a big-time player, he steps up in the moments,” Donald said. “We have two important weeks for him in Ireland and Wentworth and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s up there having a good chance in those events.”
Asked if Meronk was unfortunate to miss out, Donald added: “Adrian was very much on my mind. There were a number of players that you could make a good argument to be on that team that aren’t. Those are difficult decisions.
“I’ve been in that position myself, I know what it feels like and it’s gut-wrenching. I spoke to them all and it’s never easy but they handled it with class.”