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Ludvig Aberg emerges from windy desert shootout to capture another Prestige at PGA West title

LA QUINTA, California — A second day of strong desert winds and unseasonably cold conditions wasn’t enough to stop Ludvig Aberg from winning a third consecutive Prestige at PGA West individual golf title Wednesday.

Aberg, a senior at Texas Tech, fired a 1-under 70 in conditions that had rule officials considering calling off the round at the Norman Course at PGA West in La Quinta. As play continued in a round that lasted more than six hours because of the wind, Aberg survived to rally past Stanford’s Michael Thorbjornsen despite playing the final six holes in 3-over.

In the team competition, head coach Michael Beard finally saw his Pepperdine Waves win the Prestige title after years of coming close but falling short in the desert event.

“What do we have, four runner-up finishes here?” said Beard, who played his high school golf at Palm Desert High School and was a co-champion of the first Prestige individual title in 2000.

The long day at the Norman Course was made even longer for some golfers who didn’t finish their second rounds Tuesday because of a suspension of play by strong wind. The third round began with a 10:30 a.m. shotgun start, with Aberg, Thorbjornsen and William Mouw of Pepperdine playing in the same foursome off the first tee.

Aberg won the Prestige title outright in 2022 and was one of three players who tied for the individual title in 2021. The victory will help Aberg hold onto his lead in the PGA Tour U standings in the chase for a PGA Tour card and could help him improve his No. 3 standing in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, where Thorbjornsen is second.

Aberg, Thorbjornsen and Mouw were all under par on the front nine, but as the wind increased, the scores escalated.

“It was pretty bad,” Aberg said of the wind. “I honestly expected it to be a little bit worse. I thought it was going to be borderline playable, but it was actually playable today.”

Texas Tech’s Ludvig Aberg (in white), Stanford’s Michael Thorbjornsen (in red) and Texas Tech’s Ludvig Aberg walk down the second fairway during the final round of the Prestige college golf tournament on the Norman Course of PGA West in La Quinta, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023.

Key putts made a difference

Down three shots to Thorbjornsen after eight holes, Aberg rallied to take a one-shot lead after 13 holes by making birdie putts of 30, 20 and 12 feet on the ninth, 11th and 12th holes while Thorbjornsen bogeyed the 10th and 13th holes. Twice on the 13th green, Thorbjornsen backed off of putts because his ball was oscillating in the wind that gusted more than 30 mph.

“Yeah, I made a few in the middle of the round,” Aberg said of his putting. “Once you see one drop, you just want to see more and more.”

Thorbjornsen birdied the 14th to tie for the lead again at 9 under, two shots ahead of Mouw, who had birdied the 12th hole but bogeyed the 13th. Thorbjornsen then took the lead outright with a bogey on the 15th hole when Aberg double-bogeyed the par 4 and Mouw made bogey. The wind continued to take its toll on the players after that, with Thorbjornsen making consecutive double bogeys on the 16th and 17th. Aberg stretched his lead to two shots with a par on the 16th while Mouw bogeyed the par 5.

On the 18th, Mouw missed a 15-foot birdie putt, so when Aberg missed the green on the par 4 and made bogey, the Red Raiders star held on for a one-shot win.

“We were all playing well in our group,” Aberg said. “During a day like this, we were out there almost seven hours. Anytime you play that long, some things are going to happen. So I just embrace it and accept it.”

Mouw’s second-place performance helped the Waves with Beard saying he believes Mouw belongs in the same category as Aberg and Thorbjornsen.

Pepperdine’s William Mouw lines up his putt on the second green during the final round of the Prestige college golf tournament on the Norman Course of PGA West in La Quinta, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023.

“You will see the three of them together a lot this year,” Beard said.

Pepperdine entered the final round at 14 under with a four-shot lead over Stanford. While Pepperdine shot its highest team score of the week at 8-over 292, its 54-hole total of 6 under was more than enough to beat Texas Tech by five shots for the week. Texas Tech shot 289 on Wednesday, while Stanford fell back to third at 3 over for the week after a 297 score Wednesday.

“We have a great team,” Beard said. “It’s still hard to know because it is kind of early in the spring. You seem to learn more and more about your team as the year goes on. But this team seems to be pretty strong.”

In the separate Prestige Individual Invitational played at the Golf Resort at Terra Lago in Indio, Riccardo Fantinelli of Princeton rallied in the final 18 holes with a 3-under 69 to take the title at 5-under 211 in the 49-player field. Chris Berzina of Texas Christian finished at 4 under, including a 1-over 73 in the windy conditions Wednesday.

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