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Masters 2024: Ludvig Åberg’s trajectory, Tiger Woods’ grind, Rory McIlroy’s struggles lead nine final thoughts


AUGUSTA, Ga. — Ludvig Åberg was stymied behind the trees up the left-hand side of the 15th hole. He was down late to Scottie Scheffler and knew he needed something special. As he and caddie Joe Skovron discussed his options, they both started giggling.

The 68th hole of his first career major, in the hunt to win the Masters on the second nine of Augusta National, yet instead of looking around wild-eyed and nervous, he’s just quietly cackling about a joke he and Skovron shared. 

Ludvig Åberg is different.

This time last year, he was playing events like the Thunderbird Collegiate and the Calusa Cup. Now, he has the experience of co-leading the Masters on a Sunday. Though he had a pit stop at the Ryder Cup in September, this is not a normal trajectory for a young golfer.

Åberg reminds a bit of Alex Honnold, the notable free solo climber, who was the first to free solo El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Honnold has tackled outrageous, death-defying feats yet never seemed to feel the same way mere mortals would feel. Åberg, as Jim Nantz noted on the CBS broadcast, picked up a burrito bowl on his way to the course Sunday with the second-to-last tee time at the first major of the year.

That’s not normal!

“First of all, playing here at Augusta National is a dream come true,” Åberg said. “Just to be in this situation and feel the nerves and feel the pressure walking down the last couple holes is what you dream of. This is what I have been wanting to do for such a long time, and it’s quite surreal to actually have the opportunity to experience it. But I’m so proud of myself and all of the people on my team and my family and everyone involved.”

Åberg can now say he’s only lost to one golfer in his major championship career. And that golfer happens to be generationally great. When the stakes are high, Åberg seems to get better. He finished third in ball-striking behind Bryson DeChambeau and 2024 Masters champion Scottie Scehffler this week. If you hit it good in a windy, firm week like this one, you are — I cannot emphasize this enough — a hitter.

What’s frightening as it relates to Åberg is that he’s getting better, and he wants it all.

“It’s nice to see that kind of come through on this stage and to know that I’m able to pull off a certain amount of shots and hit the putts the way I want to, and it’s just very encouraging and I want to do it again and again,” he said.

Here are seven other thoughts on the 88th Masters.

Tiger’s grinding finish

There was a line about Tiger Woods week that stood out to me. It came from the Shotgun Start Podcast. Brendan Porath said something about Tiger along these lines: He seems to love playing tournaments these days almost as much as he used to love winning tournaments. That does seem true. The record of 24 consecutive Masters made cuts Woods achieved seemed like it meant something to him. 

He has no juice, no lower body and no sharpness from which to draw. In other words, Tiger these days has no chance of beating the Schefflers of the world. But he still enjoys playing and grinding as much as his broken body will allow. That’s admirable, and while it can be tough to watch, it can still be easy to appreciate in the weeks when his body can go all 72 holes of a major championship.

Rory’s continued struggles

If there was a moment that defined Rory McIlroy’s week, it came on Friday at the 11th hole. He was playing with Scheffler for the second consecutive round after saying this about the No. 1 golfer the world just one day prior.

“Scottie does such a good job of … it doesn’t look like it’s 6 under par, and then at the end of the day, it’s 6 under par. He’s just so efficient with everything,” McIlroy said Thursday. “If you look at Scottie compared to the rest of the field, the amount of bogey-free rounds he plays and he shoots is phenomenal, and that’s the secret to winning major championships and winning big-time golf tournaments is more limiting the mistakes rather than making a ton of birdies. I made three bogeys today, which is fine out there in these conditions, but just need to tidy it up a little bit to try to keep up with him.”

To try to keep up with him.

It’s a monumental task for anyone right now, but McIlroy possesses talent that most others do not. However, at that 11th hole on Friday, with the wind howling and conditions as difficult as they have been this course, Scheffler found the fat part of the green on his approach with a low draw. McIlroy found the water with an overcooked approach shot. 

It seemed obvious in the moment that Scottie had that shot and Rory did not. That’s a generalization, of course, because we have years’ worth of proof McIlroy can hit so many different shots. But under the gun of tournament golf, it sometimes seems like he either chooses bad paths or cannot execute on the shots he’s supposed to hit. That’s not always a problem outside of majors, but when trying to beat the No. 1 player in the world at the four biggest events, it becomes a massive issue.

“I think, with the ball-striking, especially in those sorts of winds, it really exposes any weaknesses that you may have. That Friday definitely exposed a few things,” McIlroy said. “As the golf course changes here, you just have to be so precise, and I wasn’t quite precise enough this week.”

The weight of the Masters

When Nicolai Højgaard briefly touched the sun Saturday as he took the lead with a birdie on the 10th hole, he immediately ejected from the event with five consecutive bogeys. That to me says less about the 23-year-old Ryder Cupper and more about the magnitude of the Masters and Augusta National. When it hits you here, it hits you.

Max Homa mentioned as much Saturday evening after shooting 73 in Round 3: “Very glad I got through it today. It was very tough. I left the gym, and all of a sudden, the nerves hit. I’m glad I did it once before.”

For Højgaard, there was no recovering this week, but he’ll take away an extraordinary amount of major experience into the rest of his career. That’s invaluable at that age, and he’ll be more prepared to handle it next time around. But that moment, that 90 minutes, said more about this tournament than it said about his ability or future.

The slam is in play

Scheffler has lost to one golfer since March 1. A legitimate, modern-era grand slam is certainly on the table. Oddsmakers have it at 80-1, which is a crazy-low number considering how difficult it is to accomplish. If you want to call it the Scottie Slam and throw in the Players Championship, which I am, then he’s already 40% of the way there. This is sustainable. He may not win them all, but he’s not playing at a clip that he’s unable to sustain. We are in the midst of an historic run that it’s difficult to contextualize while it’s happening — that’s always the case, right? — but Scheffler’s trajectory right now is that he will go down as one of the 20 best players of all time.

Neal Shipley’s extraordinary week

Not only did Shipley nearly hole out to make it to the finals of the U.S. Amateur against Nick Dunlap last summer to get into the Masters, he was also the only amateur to make the cut, thus wrapping up the silver cup as the low am at Augusta National. And as if all of that wasn’t enough, he got to play with Tiger on Sunday in Big Cat’s 100th round around this course. Come on. They don’t draw it up like that — even in the movies. His caddie may have had an even better week!

Homa has the best lines in golf

Homa had the best major week of his life with a T3 finish, but he was an even better quote throughout. When he spoke Saturday evening about attempting to mentally balance the tournament and the week itself, he gave what, for me, was maybe the quote of the week.

“If I catch myself thinking about what could go wrong, I let myself dream about what could go right.”

Homa has become easy to cheer because he lets everyone into his world in ways that most players do not and wears all of his heart on his sleeve. I don’t know whether he will ever win a major championship, but I do know that the patrons on the grounds were pulling for him as much as — perhaps even more — than anyone else in the tournament.

Bryson shines again on the big stage

Bryson is back? I don’t know that we ever left it, but it’s clear that Bryson DeChambeau is serious about being a major championship golfer once again. I have some concern about his ability to manage his short game, but between the 3D-printed irons and meme of him carrying the signpost around Augusta National, I have no concerns at all about him as a content machine. He is unintentionally hilarious, especially when he’s playing great like he did this week.

Augusta National rules

What a week for this golf course. It’s so perfect and such a joy to watch golf here. Even early in the week, golfers were discussing how much enjoyment they get from hitting creative, fun shots around the course. And then, we got to watch that play out over four wild round at this tournament.

It’s not an indictment of regular PGA Tour stops necessarily because those courses are going against one of the great tracks in the world. But to see a course set up fast, firm and with pins that actually require imagination and thoughtfulness was a total delight.

Major championship golf rules, and Augusta National this year saw all kinds of additional elements — wind, dry conditions for the last three days, among them — to make it even better than usual.


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