PINEHURST, N.C. — No one is likely to confuse Ludvig Aberg with Francis Ouimet. Yet the potential for the two to become forever linked in golf history exists this weekend.

Aberg is making his debut in the U.S. Open, and it’s been an impressive one so far for the 24-year-old from Sweden. After an opening-round 66, he followed it with a 69 to take the 36-hole lead at five-under 135. Along the way, Aberg has hit 22 out of 26 fairways and 30 of 36 greens in regulation, leading the field in both categories.

“I think obviously this being my first one, I think a U.S. Open is supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to be tricky, and it’s supposed to challenge any aspect of your game. And I feel like it’s really doing that,” Aberg said on Friday after playing his way to the final pairing along with Bryson DeChambeau for Saturday’s third round. “But super fortunate with the way that things have turned out over the last couple days, and hopefully we’ll be able to keep it up.

So what about the Ouimet part? Well the last golfer to win the U.S. Open in his first appearance … wait for it … was Ouimet at The Country Club in 1913. Of course, that victory was arguably of the biggest wins in golf history, the Massachusetts amateur beating famed professionals Harry Vardon and Ted Ray to become the first amateur to win the Open, turning the American public’s attention in earnest to golf.

This is just Aberg’s third major championship start overall. In his first at the Masters in April, he wound up finishing runner-up to Scottie Scheffler. It might have been a surprise if not for the fact that Aberg already was a winner on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, and a participant on the victorious European Ryder Cup team, within six months of turning pro last June.

Aberg subsequently missed the cut at the PGA Championship in May after withdrawing a week before from the Wells Fargo Championship due to a knee injury. It was the first sign of a stall in 2024, Aberg having had top 15 finish in five of his last six PGA Tour starts, including a T-5 last week at Memorial.

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Working in Aberg benefit is that while unfamiliar with playing in a U.S. Open, he is familiar with Pinehurst. Aberg competed here at the 2019 U.S. Amateur, losing in the second round of match play.

His experience there led to a funny moment in his Friday press conference. Asked what the hardest course he’d ever played prior to this week at Pinehurst here’s Aberg’s response:

“Pinehurst because I played the U.S. Amateur here a couple years ago. I think just with the way those greens are, when it gets really firm, and just because you don’t really have any bail-out areas, you’ve just got to take on the golf shots and see where it ends up, and if you don’t pull it off, you’re going to have a really tricky short game shot. I think it’s a challenging golf course, but once again, that’s the way it was supposed to be.”

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This article was originally published on golfdigest.com