Golf-Masters debutants Clark and Aberg looking to pull major surprise

By Thomson Reuters Apr 9, 2024 | 6:18 PM

By Steve Keating

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) – It has been nearly a half-century since a Masters debutant slipped on the Green Jacket but American veteran Wyndham Clark and Swedish young gun Ludvig Aberg could deliver a major surprise at Augusta National this week.

Not since Fuzzy Zoeller beat Ed Sneed and Tom Watson in a playoff to win the 1979 Masters has a rookie walked away with the coveted title.

But Clark and Aberg are not your typical Masters newcomers.

It may be Clark’s first Masters but the 30-year-old sits a threatening number four on the world rankings and has a resume that includes a U.S. Open title.

World number nine Aberg, just 24, is already a winner on the PGA and DP Tours and was a member of Europe’s victorious Ryder Cup squad last year.

“It’s a tricky balance,” said Aberg, whose best result on the PGA Tour this season is a runner-up finish to Clark at Pebble Beach. “Obviously I’m feeling all the first-time feelings that everyone’s feeling, but I’m also trying to be OK with all those things coming at me at the same time.

“All I’m trying to do is just embrace all the nerves and all the excitement that I feel and at the same time know my capabilities and know my qualities and know that’s probably going to be good enough to compete.

“I’ll definitely make sure that, come Thursday, I’ll be as prepared as I can.”

As the only major played on the same venue it is experience that counts at Augusta National says Tiger Woods, who will be seeking a 24th consecutive made cut at the Masters.

“It’s an understanding of how to play this golf course,” said Woods, owner of five Green Jackets.

“That’s one of the reasons why you see players in their 50s and 60s make cuts here or it’s players in their late 40s having runs at winning the event, just the understanding of how to play it.

“Now you still have to go out and execute it but there’s a lot of knowledge that goes into understanding how to play it.”

With his victory at last year’s U.S. Open, Clark is confident he can deal with the pressure but still expects to feel a few jitters when play gets underway on Thursday.

“I know it’s a tall task,” he said. “It’s a challenging golf course. There’s a bunch of good golfers. That said, you still have to bring your game, it’s not like you can just flip a switch and win it.

“But that would be an amazing accomplishment and I like my chances. I really like myself on this golf course.”

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Augusta; Editing by Ken Ferris)