Stephan Jaeger is clearly on his way back to the PGA Tour.
If the former Baylor School and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga golf standout plays the way he did in closing out the sixth Korn Ferry Tour victory of his career, that return to the top circuit might come even sooner than the start of next season.
Jaeger won a playoff Sunday at the Emerald Coast Classic at Sandestin, beating David Lipsky by making par on the first extra hole in Miramar Beach, Florida, after they finished regulation tied at 14-under-par 266. Jaeger offset a pair of bogeys in the final round with six birdies as he shot his second straight 4-under 66 after back-to-back 67s to start the tournament.
Lipsky had back-to-back birdies in his closing 67, but his bogey on No. 18 in the playoff left him as runner-up to Jaeger, a 31-year-old Chattanooga resident who was born in Munich, Germany.
Jaeger had a share of third through 54 holes, when he was four shots behind leader Andrew Novak. A par on the final hole kept Novak out of the playoff as he closed with a 71.
Jaeger is now tied for second for career wins on the Korn Ferry Tour, with Jason Gore's seven the standard for the PGA Tour's developmental circuit. Victory No. 5 for Jaeger came in August 2020 at the Albertsons Boise Open, and although a Korn Ferry Tour win would typically lock up a PGA Tour card for the ensuing season, Jaeger was forced to wait because normal promotional practices were suspended amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"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 told the Times Free Press in the wake of that win in Idaho. "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."
What Jaeger was alluding to — and as the Korn Ferry Tour's Twitter account pointed out after his win Sunday — is what is popularly referred to as a battlefield promotion, in which three wins in a single season on the lower level result in an immediate jump to the PGA Tour. That practice has not been suspended amid the pandemic, and with some five months remaining in this "season and three-fourths," Jaeger has time to make such a shortcut happen and pay off.
The Korn Ferry Tour's tweets regarding Jaeger on Sunday included the hashtag TOURBOUND, and even if he is unable to secure a third victory in this extra-long season, he is now No. 2 on the points list, "securing a spot in The 25 and a PGA TOUR return," according to pgatour.com.
Jaeger's six wins have come in less than five years, beginning with the Ellie Mae Classic in July 2016. He won the BMW Charity Pro-Am and the Rust-Oleum Championship the following year, and he won the Knoxville Open in May 2018, when he was on the PGA Tour but missed out on a spot in The Players Championship.
He played a PGA Tour event just a week before his latest triumph and even led after the first round of the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship. Now he's in line for some more regular time on the PGA Tour, and one more win this spring or summer would keep him from having to wait until the fall to make that jump again.