It’s a sad day for PGA Tour junkies—the curtains have been shut on the final event of the regular season, and now we must endure stoically through the endless offseason of [checks notes] five weeks. But before we ride off into the sunset, THE C.E.L.E.B.R.A.T.I.O.N. SCALE is here for one last hurrah. The season finale at the RSM Classic produced a great champion in Ludvig Aberg, the Swedish phenom who locked in the first PGA Tour win of his career, but was he a great celebrator? Like a brooding Nordic detective in your favorite Scandi-noir TV show, that’s what we’re here to find out.
Here’s a quick reminder of how THE C.E.L.E.B.R.A.T.I.O.N. SCALE works: Using 11 different criteria, each rated from 1-10, we come up with a comprehensive score that can be used as a measure of excellence and a comparison to past and future celebrations. The criteria:
Crowd Work – When you win, are you a man of the people?Elation – How much did you let loose?Looper Moment – That first hug/fist bump/whatever with the caddie is so importantEmotion – You know you get MASSIVE points for tears in this one.Body Work – Separate from elation/emotion, how good was the sheer physicality?Relations – Family? Friends? Agents?Awkwardness – Golf can be an awkward sport, we love it, and here we reward itTheatrics – A catch-all category for any other BIG elements of the celebrationInterview – The victory interview; how well did they execute?Opponent interaction – Was there respect shown to the enemy? We love respect.N-tangibles – Anything—and everything—else
We’ll refer to this video, with thanks once again to the PGA Tour:
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1. Crowd Work
There are too many times in this crazy game when the winner barely acknowledges the crowd at all in the moments after victory, as we saw with Tom Kim and Luke List earlier this fall. Morikawa was much better in the last installment, and Aberg is almost on his level. When the birdie putt falls, you can see that his very first move, even before the electric fist pump, was to raise a hand to the fans. He gives another wave to the fans as he goes to pick up the ball, and once the ball is in hand, it’s a wave, a hat tip, and then a series of waves that take in the entire crowd panorama. This is a man, young as he is, who knows to give props to the crowd. Just a class showing from beginning to end.
This is the most elated we’ve seen any golfer since the franchise began earlier this autumn. His win was already secure on 18, but his reaction when the putt fell was splendid. You can feel the energy coursing through him on the fist pump, and the big smile speaks for itself. It just shows that you can show some excitement even if the tournament isn’t coming down to the wire. His interview was calmer, but even then he had a few disbelieving laughs to show how surreal it all felt. Could he have gone even wilder? Sure. But for now, he’s set the standard.
3. Looper Moment
After the crowd recognition, he turned to his caddie Jack Clarke, leaned backward and gave that double clutch Poulter-at-the-Ryder-Cup-style cheer. There was excitement there, but also comedy; he and Clarke seem to have a strong buddy relationship based on joking around, and over and over during the broadcast you could see how easygoing Clarke was around his charge. That’s got to make things easier, and even at the end, they were laughing together. After a well-executed soul shake and a quick but efficient hug followed by an extra back-pat from Clarke—these guys don’t seem like the type for a long embrace—you can see that Clarke makes him laugh again off camera. They hug again at 1:04, and all in all, they’re just very likable. High marks.
In the interview with Todd Lewis, Aberg is mostly even-keeled. He says all the right things, but he’s laid-back calm, and the most we get, as noted above, is a bit of disbelief. The elation on making the putt was strong, but as befits his pedigree, there were no tears or shouts or anything like that. He’s a killer, and killers win, but we have to ding him on the emotional display. Still, there was something a little childlike in his joy, so it’s not all bad.
5. Body Work
I can’t get over the fist pump. Watch it again at 0:11, but pay closer attention to the replays starting at 1:10. Everything about it is masterful, but not just masterful—it’s also original. He holds the fist for a moment, suspended high in the air, building tension, and then the pump itself is violent and fast—the speed is a marvel—and, unlike Tiger’s low-to-high uppercut style, comes from outside to inside, across his body. It’s a marvel, and the coup de grace is that he lifts his back leg up and takes an aggressive step forward to complete the motion. You don’t see leg work like that anymore, and Aberg even manages to shout something as he’s executing. Let’s just state it plainly: Golf hasn’t seen a novel fist pump like this since Tiger himself. This, more than anything else, telegraphs what a great champion he’s going to be. I’m still stunned.
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No family, no girlfriend, no wife, no kids, but he does hug Peter Hanson, his Swedish mentor, and when the broadcast cut off, it looked like he had some agents or friends in the background. He’s going to lose some points, but I do love the mentor angle. It’s like a poor man’s version of Rahm and Olazabal hugging after the Masters this year.
The man is not at all awkward, and it’s not because he’s polished like Morikawa, but just naturally smooth. We love our gawky golfers, but we have to face facts: he’s not going to give us what we want here.
The fist pump will bleed into this category, and the extra little Poulter-thrust toward his caddie gets him some additional points. Beyond that, he kept it pretty low-key, but he certainly didn’t do a bad job.
This, I think, is where he fell a little short. He definitely came off well with Lewis, but maybe the words themselves were just a little bland. It was a lot of cliche—”it’s beyond my dreams,” “it’s a privilege to be in this position,” “I had some putts go in today”—but I did like how he admitted that despite his outward appearance of total composure, he was still nervous. And the bashful laugh at 2:25 was charming. Aside from those moments, he left a little to be desired.
10. Opponent Interaction
Aberg started off doing everything right, from the solemn handshakes at 0:38, the slight head nod, the “sorry for you” mouth twist, and if anything, it might have been just slightly brusque. But then, he has a moment with Mackenzie Hughes that’s very funny. You can see it in the video above, but the audio is a little better in this tweet. Hughes tells him good job, then says “61-61? That’ll work,” followed by going for his midsection with his hat. Aberg gives him a friendly half-forearm in response, and it’s just a cool moment between competitors. This is mostly on Hughes—he instigated it—but Aberg’s sheepish smile reflects well on him too.
There’s not much more to add here—he kept it pretty standard outside of the moments already covered—but a few weeks ago we gave Morikawa credit for his great smile, and while Aberg might not quite be at Morikawa’s level on that front yet, it’s a solid grin for sure. If Viktor Hovland represents a 10/10 on the smile scale, and Morikawa is a 9.5, Aberg is a solid 8.0. And while we’re being superficial, Aberg is an impressive physical specimen—good-looking in that solid, chiseled way that makes you think he could play a Russian supervillain like Ivan Drago if Cold War sports blockbusters ever come back. This man has got it all!
Overall Score: 70.2
Final Analysis: The fist pump is the highlight here, but the holistic takeaway is that you come away liking this guy. It’s easy to see that Aberg is bound for superstardom, and his celebration following his PGA Tour win only heightens the intrigue around the man who may be the next truly superlative golfer.
Oh my! Aberg knocks off Morikawa! We have a new leader! Check out the links below for previous installments.
70.2: Ludvig Aberg at the RSM67.5: Collin Morikawa at the Zozo58: Luke List at Sanderson Farms55.5: Viktor Hovland at the Tour Championship54: Tom Kim at the Shriners Open
This article was originally published on golfdigest.com