houston open

Stephan Jaeger 'slays the dragon,' wins first PGA Tour title, is headed to the Masters

March 31, 2024
HOUSTON, TEXAS - MARCH 31: Stephan Jaeger of Germany and Scottie Scheffler of the United States hug on the 18th green during the final round of the Texas Children's Houston Open at Memorial Park Golf Course on March 31, 2024 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

It didn’t matter how exasperating Scottie Scheffler’s putting can be at times. Nor did It matter that the World No. 1 found himself in another nervy position on the 18th green Sunday in the Texas Children’s Houston Open, having to convert a five-foot birdie putt to force a playoff with Stephan Jaeger, because two days earlier Scheffler botched a 22-inch roll to suffer a double bogey.

Scheffler has been the best player in the world, by far, over many months, securing his second straight Players Championship only two weeks ago, and he’d just done what Scottie does by hitting a laser 183-yard approach on the 72nd hole at Memorial Park. Surely, with his short putt, he’d redeem a number of mistakes and “bad breaks” in his home state tournament to do what PGA Tour kings do—stomp on your neck when it matters most.

Jaeger, who missed a 21-foot birdie putt at 18 that would have secured outright his first tour victory in 135 starts, had to figure Scheffler would not falter. They would go to sudden death, and likely everyone but Jaeger and his wife Shelby, standing greenside with their toddler son, expected the German to be headed for another heartbreaking “L” while Scheffler prevailed in his third straight start.

Jaeger’s thoughts as he waited for Scheffler to putt? “Where to hit it in the playoff on the green."

“One hundred percent. I expected him to make it," Jaeger said. "And I’m not mad at him for missing it.”

Score one for the famished tour understudies, because Scheffler slid his putt by the hole, lamenting later that it was purely a misread, and the 34-year-old Jaeger earned his maiden win with a 12-under total capped with a closing 67. He earned $1.638 million.

“It feels amazing,” Jaeger said. “I couldn't have … dreamed up a better week to do it. Obviously, 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.”


Scottie Scheffler salutes fans at the 18th hole.

Icon Sportswire

Given his prime chance to win, Scheffler was clearly disappointed afterward. But his run of remarkably consistent strong performances continued. In eight starts, the 27-year-old has six top-10 finishes and two wins heading into the Masters in two weeks.

“I put up a good fight, felt like I had some weird breaks this week,” Scheffler said. “That's kind of the thing—like, it's tough to describe. But obviously I'm a bit disappointed. 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. So, a bit disappointing, but Stephan played great this week and he's a deserving champion.”

Scheffler will, of course, rue his lapse of concentration at the end of Friday’s second round. After nearly holing out his third shot from a greenside bunker at 18, Scheffler missed a five-foot putt for par, and despite lining up his bogey attempt from 22 inches, his ball caught the edge of the cup and spun out for a double bogey. Scheffler blamed the miss on a spike mark.

Four players went to the 18th hole with a chance to put the pressure on Jaeger by tying him at 12 under. Alejandro Tosti was best positioned at 12 under already, but the animated Argentine saw his approach at the last spin off the green into an uphill spot in the rough. “Terrible lie,” Tosti (68) said later, the resulting pitch giving him an 18-footer for par that he didn’t make. Belgian Thomas Detry (68) had a 25-foot birdie putt to get to 12 under, and American Taylor Moore (67) left himself with a 44-footer for birdie that didn’t go in.


Stephan Jaeger celebrates win with his 16-month-old son Harrison.

Raj Mehta

For Jaeger, the triumph served as redemption for a couple of near-misses this season. In January’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, he led after 54 holes, only to shoot 72 to winner Mathieu Pavon’s 69. A month later in the Mexico Open, Jaeger shot four rounds in the 60s, closing with a 65 for a second T-3.

“Felt like my game's really been trending,” Jaeger said. “I've been again consistent. I had a couple of weeks that it wasn't great in Florida, but I felt like if I could just get putter a little warmer, I could have a chance. The putter was nice this week and I got the job done.”

Born in Munich, Germany, Jaeger moved to Chattanooga, Tenn., as a 16-year-old and attended high school with fellow tour pros Keith Mitchell and Harris English. He went on to compete in college at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and joined the Korn Ferry Tour in 2013. Jaeger was a juggernaut on that circuit, notching six victories and 18 top-five finishes, but bounced up and down between KFT and the PGA Tour until establishing himself in the big leagues in 2021-22.

Now Jaegar has his tour card through 2026 and will play in his first Masters. In 12 years as a pro, he’s only competed in four majors total.

As the drama played out on Sunday afternoon, Shelby Jaeger stood behind the green, holding the couple’s 16-month-old son, Harrison, on her hip. They moved into a new house last week, Stephan said, at the cover stayed on his bag until Sunday.

“My wife's been on my side for a long time,” Jaeger said. “She's seen the worst and she's seen me win on the Korn Ferry Tour. She's been by my side; she's been my biggest supporter. Biggest critic, too. She will set me straight if something's going on. To be able to celebrate with them, the two most important people in my life, I'm super happy they're here. To hopefully I'll do that again when my son remembers it.”