Chattanooga’s Stephan Jaeger in five-way tie for Houston Open lead

AP file photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack / Chattanooga resident Stephan Jaeger, a former Baylor School and UTC standout from Germany, was part of a five-way tie for the lead through 54 holes at the PGA Tour's Houston Open on Saturday.
AP file photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack / Chattanooga resident Stephan Jaeger, a former Baylor School and UTC standout from Germany, was part of a five-way tie for the lead through 54 holes at the PGA Tour's Houston Open on Saturday.

HOUSTON — Scottie Scheffler made a double bogey from what he thought was a good shot, responded with back-to-back birdies and finished with a 4-under-par 66 on Saturday to be part of a five-way tie for the 54-hole lead in the Houston Open.

Scheffler is trying to become the first player since Dustin Johnson in 2017 to win three consecutive PGA Tour starts, and he would appear to be in the pole position among players with so little experience at winning at golf's highest level.

David Skinns had a 65 and was the first to post at 9-under 201. He was joined by Chattanooga resident Stephan Jaeger (66), Thomas Detry (67) and Alejandro Tosti (68), all of them trying to win on the PGA Tour for the first time. Three others with one PGA Tour win, including U.S. Amateur champion Nick Dunlap, were another shot behind.

Jaeger, a 34-year-old from Germany, is a former Baylor School and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga standout who won six times on the developmental Korn Ferry Tour from 2016 to 2021 and is in his second stint on the PGA Tour. His best tournament finish on the PGA Tour is third, having tied for that spot twice — with both times this year, at the Farmers Insurance Open in January and the Mexico Open in February.

He needs a victory in Houston or next weekend at the Texas Open in San Antonio to secure a spot in the Masters, with fellow Baylor grads Harris English and Luke List already in the field for the year's first major April 11-14 at Augusta National. Along with Keith Mitchell, they give the Red Raiders four former players on the PGA Tour. English did not enter the Houston Open, while List and Mitchell missed the cut Friday.

Tony Finau, who had a two-shot lead going into the third round, didn't make a birdie until the 13th hole on another blustery day at Memorial Park. He salvaged a 72 and was still in the thick of it, just two shots behind.

Scheffler, No. 1 in the Official World Ranking, is coming off victories at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship.

"Winning the last two doesn't help me do anything tomorrow," Scheffler said. "I think it's going to be another pretty challenging day out there with high winds. Stick to my process and control what I can control out there."

Some things were out of his control at Memorial Park.

It was crowded at the top for so much of the day. Scheffler joined the chase with four birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn, and looked to be on the verge of seizing control. But he turned a birdie chance into a bogey when his pitch on the reachable par-4 13th went over the green and he was fortunate his next chip didn't come back to his feet.

But what flummoxed him was the par-3 15th, with the tee and pin moved forward, making the hole play a mere 121 yards with narrow margins for the miss. Scheffler's tee shot landed about six feet from the hole, and he heard the gallery cheer — and then groan.

The ball spun back just enough to catch a slope, then a steeper slope in front of the green, and it kept rolling right through the rough and into the water. Scheffler covered his mouth with his hand and then began to laugh.

"What are you going to do?" he said to his caddie.

The only option was to take a penalty drop, and he failed to get up and down for his second double bogey in two days.

"I didn't expect it to spin back, I didn't expect it to spin back off the green, and I didn't expect it to be in the water," he said.

But he answered with a 4-iron to the green on the par-5 16th and another great shot to a tough pin to four feet for birdie on the 17th.

Tosti, trying to become the fourth PGA Tour rookie to win this early in the season, overcame a double bogey on the par-3 second when he four-putted (the first one went off the green), and he had plenty of passion and fire the rest of the way.

Dunlap became the first amateur in 33 years to win on the PGA Tour when he finished first at The American Express tournament in January. A week later, he left the University of Alabama during the middle of his sophomore season with the Crimson Tide to turn pro, and it has been a struggle since then.

He was at dinner with his caddie Friday night trying to figure what needed to be better. He found a solution.

"All I tried to do today was play perfect with what I had, not necessarily like perfect golf, but getting the easy ones up and down, not three-putting," Dunlap said.

Part of that equation was seven birdies for a 63, and he goes into Sunday with a chance to win. Also at 8-under 202 were Taylor Moore, who won the Valspar Championship a year ago, and Akshay Bhatia, who won the Barracuda Championship last summer. Each shot a 67 on Saturday.

Finau was about the only player who couldn't get anything going. One day after making just about everything, he kept missing with the putter, including two tries from inside 10 feet and two birdie chances from about the same range.

He drove to the 13th green and two-putted for his first birdie, only to hit into the water on the 15th, escaping with a bogey. And then on the par-5 16th, his second shot bounced left and into the water, spelling more trouble.

But he chipped in for birdie after his penalty drop and was well within range of Scheffler and everyone else going into Sunday.

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