The Web.com Tour’s Ellie Mae Classic at TPC Stonebrae was destined to be overshadowed this week by the PGA Championship, unless of course something crazy happened in Heyward, Calif.
Well, something crazy happened.
Stephan Jaeger opened with a 12-under 58 Thursday at TPC Stonebrae, recording the lowest score ever shot in a regulation PGA Tour-sanctioned tournament.
“Everything went well. I was driving the ball well. I was making everything. I got the good breaks,” said Jaeger, a 27-year-old native of Germany playing his third season on the developmental tour. “Even the bad shots you’d get a good bounce and have 15 feet and make that. It was just a blackout round, it really was. Those don’t happen too often.”
Jaeger started on the back nine on the par-70 7,100 yard layout and made the turn in six-under 29 after a streak of five straight birdies. When he birdied Nos. 1 and 2 (his 10th and 11th), the former college All-American at Chattanooga admitted to thinking about the magic number 59, a round shot five times previously on the Web.com Tour, six times on the PGA Tour and once on the PGA Tour Champions.
But when Jaeger made birdies on the Nos. 4 and 5, the possibility of something even lower started to surface. Another birdie on the par-3 sixth hole got him to 11 under for the round. Pars on the seventh and eighth still had him set to shoot a 59 when he stepped to the tee on the par-5 ninth hole.
After hitting a 3-wood in the fairway, Jaeger laid up with his second shot to 95 yards. He took out a wedge for his third shot, his ball coming to rest 10 feet of the hole.
And then he made history.
“Right now I’m actually kind of happy to be done, to be honest with you. It’s very stressful for you,” Jaeger said. “It’s kind of like going on the back nine on Sunday. I’m happy I performed the way I did. It was the icing on the cake, the last hole obviously.”
Suffice it to say, Jaeger’s stats for the round are impressive: 12 of 13 fairways hit, 15 of 18 greens and just 23 putts.
The tricky part now for Jaeger, who holds only conditional status on the Web.com Tour this year, is to not let the round interfere with the rest of the event as he holds a four-stroke lead over three other golfers. (Only one of the five Web.com Tour players to shoot a 59 actually won the event they did it in; Jason Gore at the 2005 Cox Classic.)
Jaeger started the week 101st on the Web.com Tour money list with $31,793 having posted two top-25 finishes in 10 starts. He needs to be inside the top 75 by early September to earn a spot in the Web.com Tour Final series and avoid needing to go to Web.com Tour Qualifying School later in the fall.