When it comes to career professional victories on the PGA Tour or Korn Ferry Tour, Stephan Jaeger's five triumphs nearly equal the combined six fellow Baylor School golf alumni Harris English, Luke List and Keith Mitchell have accumulated.
Yet it's the breakdown Jaeger would like to remedy, as all five of his titles have transpired on the Korn Ferry Tour. The fifth occurred Sunday when he won the Albertsons Boise Open, pulling the 2012 All-American at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga within two of the Korn Ferry record of seven career victories set by Jason Gore from 2000 to 2010.
"Obviously you want to win on the PGA Tour more than the Korn Ferry, but I've won these all in the last four years or so, so that kind of gives me some confidence going forward," Jaeger said this week. "I still have plenty of golf left in me to accomplish what I want out on the PGA Tour. My plan is to get back to the PGA Tour, and this was a big step in the right direction."
Jaeger's first Korn Ferry (known previously as the Web.com Tour) title was the 2016 Ellie Mae Classic near San Francisco, when the German-born standout became the first player on the PGA Tour, PGA Tour Champions or Korn Ferry to shoot a 58. He racked up 12 birdies in that opening round and followed with rounds of 65, 64 and 63 for a 30-under-par 250.
Two Korn Ferry wins in 2017 resulted in a fifth-place finish on the money list, earning Jaeger his PGA Tour card, and his fourth Korn Ferry triumph occurred at the 2018 Knoxville Open, which he decided to play at the last moment after failing to qualify for The Players Championship. Jaeger has held the third-round lead in four of his five Korn Ferry triumphs, including last weekend in Idaho, which added to his impressive knack for closing out the competition.
"You can go back to junior golf, where I was always someone who didn't want to beat somebody — I wanted to hammer them," Jaeger said. "I don't know if that's the mentality I have on Sundays when it comes down the line. I was only 2 under Sunday through 13 holes, so I thought I had fallen behind.
"There are not any leaderboards out there or anything, so I thought I was going to have to do something pretty special coming in."
Jaeger, who wound up cruising to a two-stroke victory in Boise, vaulted from 74th to 12th in the Korn Ferry points. Winning a Korn Ferry event in recent years normally would punch a player's ticket to a PGA Tour card, but these are not normal times.
After playing on the PGA Tour during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, the earliest the 31-year-old could return is the 2021-22 season. English, List and Mitchell have qualified for this year's FedEx Cup playoffs, which start Thursday at The Northern Trust at TPC Boston, and are assured of their PGA Tour cards for 2020-21.
"Since all the COVID-19 has happened, the Korn Ferry has decided that this year plus next year is going to be one big season," Jaeger said. "So now we have a season and a half, or a season and three-fourths. Obviously I'm in a great spot now, and I've got to keep playing well. The goal is to win a couple more and get there early, but this is a hard game.
"When you think you've figured it out, you get knocked in the face a little bit. Out of the three (Korn Ferry) Finals events that we're playing right now, the top five get in the U.S.Open, so I've got a good shot at that."
Jaeger has qualified for two previous U.S. Opens, missing the cut in 2017 and finishing 60th in 2017, so he has goals for both the weeks and years ahead.
"I've done a lot of work on my long game, because that's the difference between the PGA Tour and the Korn Ferry Tour," he said. "You can get away with not hitting it as well on the Korn Ferry, but when you get to Quail Hollow and Riviera and those places, you better hit it really well, or your bad has to be better. My bad has to be better to where I can figure stuff out and still compete.
"I've got to turn a missed cut into a 40th and turn a 50th into 22nd. It's a long road, because you can't change things like that in an instant."