Chattanooga’s Stephan Jaeger wins Houston Open for first PGA Tour victory

Former Baylor, UTC standout from Germany wins in 135th start

AP photo by Michael Wyke / Stephan Jaeger kisses the Houston Open trophy after earning the first win of his PGA Tour career Sunday at Memorial Park Golf Course. The 34-year-old Chattanooga resident, a native of Munich, Germany, is a former Baylor School and UTC standout.
AP photo by Michael Wyke / Stephan Jaeger kisses the Houston Open trophy after earning the first win of his PGA Tour career Sunday at Memorial Park Golf Course. The 34-year-old Chattanooga resident, a native of Munich, Germany, is a former Baylor School and UTC standout.

HOUSTON — Stephan Jaeger couldn’t have dreamed up a better scenario for his first PGA Tour victory.

The Chattanooga resident played the final 36 holes with the best player on the planet, and he won the Houston Open on Sunday to earn his first trip to the Masters.

“It feels amazing,” Jaeger said.

Scottie Scheffler couldn’t imagine a tougher way for his March winning streak to end — with a clutch shot to five feet on the final hole, and a birdie putt he thought was good until he looked up and realized it wasn’t.

“I hit two or three really good shots into 18 to give myself a chance, and I feel like I made the putt, and I looked up and it was breaking off,” Scheffler said. “So a bit disappointing, but Stephan played great this week and he’s a deserving champion.”

Jaeger closed with nine straight pars, and that was just enough for a 3-under-par 67 at Memorial Park Golf Course to finally win in his 135th attempt on the PGA Tour.

He was preparing for a playoff after narrowly missing a 20-foot birdie putt that would have assured the victory. But then Scheffler, who gave himself three good looks down the stretch, saw his putt burn the left edge of the cup.

“I expected him to make it, and I’m not mad at him for missing it,” Jaeger said.

Scheffler was trying to become the first player in seven years to win three straight starts on the PGA Tour, and he was right there with a chance late in the tournament. Two shots behind, he had a 20-foot eagle putt on the par-5 16th and settled for a birdie. He missed a 12-foot- birdie try on the 17th, but he stayed alive when Jaeger missed from seven feet on the reachable par-4 17th.

His five-foot birdie putt to force a playoff missed to the left, and Scheffler had to settle for a 68 and being a runner-up — one of five, actually — to Jaeger, who finished the 72-hole event at 12-under 268 and for the first time will move into the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking. Scheffler is No. 1.

“It would be one thing if I pulled it or something like that,” Scheffler said. “I just misread it. I don’t know why I misread it; it’s part of the game. Maybe I could have hit it with some more speed, I felt like I hit a nice putt kind of how I wanted to, just didn’t go.”

The 34-year-old Jaeger is from Munich, Germany, but has long called the Scenic City home. He came to Baylor School as an exchange student in high school two decades ago, starring for the Red Raiders and then the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga's Stephan Jaeger already eyeing next season after leading PGA Tour in made cuts)

He won six times on the developmental Korn Ferry Tour from 2016 to 2021 and is in his second stint on the PGA Tour. Until his triumph Sunday, Jaeger’s best tournament finish on the PGA Tour was third, having tied for that spot twice — with both times this year, at the Farmers Insurance Open in late January and the Mexico Open in late February.

Winning in late March brings him an April reward unlike any other: The Masters is April 11-14, and when the year’s first major tees off at Augusta National, the field will include Jaeger for the first time. It will be his fifth overall appearance in a major; he has qualified for the U.S. Open three times (he missed the cut in 2015 but made it to the weekend in 2017 and 2020) and tied for 50th at the PGA Championship last year.

Jaeger is one of four Baylor School graduates currently on the PGA Tour — along with Harris English, Luke List and Keith Mitchell — and now all four of them have at least one win. His payout for winning in Houston was $1,638,000, and he also secured a place in the remaining four $20 million signature events this season.

(READ MORE: Former Baylor golfers filling up PGA leaderboards like never before)

Jaeger was part of a five-way tie for the 54-hole lead after Saturday’s play — the largest on tour since 2009 — and eight players had at least a share of the lead at some point Sunday.

Alejandro Tosti, who had a chance to become the fourth PGA Tour rookie to win this year, was tied for the lead until chipping too strong on the 18th and missing the 18-foot par putt for a 68.

Jaeger was always in the mix, taking the lead with an eight-foot birdie putt on the par-3 ninth hole. That was his last birdie of the day, and no one could beat him.

“I was just trying to stay within myself,” Jaeger said. “Birdies eluded me on the back nine. But this golf course plays difficult, especially when you’re around the lead. I’m just super happy.”

Scheffler, Tosti, Thomas Detry (68), Tony Finau (66) and Taylor Moore (67) shared second place.

This was the final event for players to move into the top 50 in the OWGR and earn a Masters invitation. The last chance to make it to Augusta with a win comes at the Texas Open, which starts Thursday in San Antonio.

Jaeger doesn’t have to worry about that.

“I couldn’t have dreamed up a better week,” he said. “Playing Scottie last couple days, he’s been on a tear, so to kind of slay the dragon a little bit this week was amazing. He’s such a good dude, such a good player, I was just happy to play with him a couple days.”

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