- Rory McIlroy will play alongside Ludvig Aberg at Wentworth this week
- Pair met up during Luke Donald’s Ryder Cup reconnaissance trip to Rome
- Swedish prodigy has been called up just THREE months after turning pro
The ace in Europe’s pack has been rather taken aback by the joker. Suffice to say, if there is to be any dousing of the hype around Ludvig Aberg, it will not come from Rory McIlroy.
They had their first encounter at Luke Donald’s Ryder Cup reconnaissance trip to Rome this week and McIlroy’s response was to say on Wednesday: ‘I was on the bandwagon before. I’m at the front of it now.’
Aberg’s impact on professional golf has been quite something in the three months since he left the amateur ranks and the same goes for the impression he has made on McIlroy. They played together on that visit to the Marco Simone course and Aberg was a little sheepish in admitting here at Wentworth that he and Viktor Hovland beat McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood in a fourballs match.
McIlroy, who will play alongside Aberg and Hovland in the first two rounds at the BMW PGA Championship, which commences at Wentworth on Thursday, has seen nothing to suggest the 23-year-old Swede will be intimidated by the clash with the Americans.
Asked about whether Aberg lived up to expectations in Rome, McIlroy said: ‘He probably exceeded them. Everyone talks about what a great driver of the golf ball he is and he is. The ball-striking is incredible.
Rory McIlroy shares a joke with Welsh football legend Gareth Bale during the Celebrity Pro-Am at Wentworth on Wednesday
McIlroy will play alongside Ludvig Aberg (pictured) and Viktor Hovland in the first two rounds at the BMW PGA Championship
‘But I was really impressed with his wedge play and how he can sort of control his trajectory with shorter clubs.’
There remains a valid question about how Aberg will handle the pressure of the occasion in Italy, especially as his talent has been talked up so effusively since he was handed a wildcard by Donald last week.
Aberg demonstrated his temperament in chasing down Matt Fitzpatrick to win his first professional title in Switzerland this month, but clearly the Ryder Cup arena is a different proposition altogether.
Aberg said: ‘I wouldn’t necessarily say I was nervous (on Monday). I was more excited, just to be able to hang out with those guys that I watched on TV for a very long time. I almost have to pinch myself in the arm that I’m actually kind of creating a relationship with these guys and getting to play with them on the golf course.
‘We have all seen what they do on the golf courses, but it’s pretty cool to see that they are actually humans as well. It’s pretty cool for me.’
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World No 2 Rory McIlroy heads the Ludvig Aberg fan club after playing with Ryder Cup rookie for the first time on scouting trip to Rome