2024 Houston Open: Stephan Jaeger earns first victory, Scottie Scheffler just short of third straight win

A missed putt on the 18th to force a playoff allowed Jaeger to enter the winner’s circle in Houston

One of the winningest players in Korn Ferry Tour history finally claimed his first victory on the PGA Tour. Stephan Jaeger emerged from a crowded leaderboard at the 2024 Houston Open to pick up a one-stroke victory over Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau, Taylor Moore and others at 12 under.

With his breakthrough win, Jaeger will earn an invitation to the Masters for the first time in his career. He will also receive invitations into the PGA Championship, The Sentry and access the rest of the signature events in 2024 — all while securing his playing privileges on the PGA Tour through the 2026 season. Jaeger jumps inside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings as well.

“[Scottie’s] been playing some unbelievable golf,” Jaeger said. “… He’s such a great dude as well. It was such a blast the last couple days to kind of fight with him, and you just know he’s going to have some good stuff. I just kind of tried to stay within myself, try to make some putts, try to make some birdies. The birdies kind of eluded me on the back nine, but this golf course plays a little difficult. Especially if you are right around the lead, there’s just so much trouble. I’m super happy obviously with today.” 

One of the five 54-hole leaders entering Sunday, Jaeger found himself in the final group alongside the world No. 1. Four birdies including back-to-back conversions on Nos. 8-9 against just one bogey on his front nine gave Jaeger a slight lead over Scheffler and a litany of others heading into the pivotal back nine at Memorial Park.

While the birdies were flying on the outward half, they were grounded on the back side. Par after par from Jaeger saw players make their moves on him including Alejandro Tosti who got to 12 under with a birdie on the par-5 16th. The 34-year-old kept his cool, however, and kept on with a heavy diet of pars.

Scheffler was unable to break into a share of the lead after dropping two behind with a bogey on the par-3 15th. Needing two putts from 20 feet for birdie on the 16th before failing to convert an 11-foot effort to tie Jaeger and Tosti on the 17th, Scheffler went to the final hole needing a birdie to force a playoff.

With Tosti carding a bogey on the 72nd hole and dropping out the lead, Jaeger and Scheffler stood in the fairway behind with only one stroke separating the two. Scheffler stepped to his first and lasered a mid iron to 6 feet just below the hole, while Jaeger followed with a sound shot to 20 feet.

Jaeger’s birdie bid slid by and set the stage for what many assumed to be a playoff in the waiting. However, as he did most of the back nine, Scheffler was unable to convert his birdie chance. Instead of Scheffler winning his third PGA Tour title in a row, it was Jaeger who grabbed his first. Grade: A+

T2. Scottie Scheffler (-11): The world No. 1 probably should have won this golf tournament. Scheffler carded a pair of double bogeys, hit three golf balls in the water and struggled with his long game for most of the week. Despite all this, he still had a birdie chance from inside 6 feet on the final hole to force a playoff. It just goes to show how high his floor stands at the moment. Scheffler’s putter has been better ever since transitioning to the mallet, but it was volatile this week. He alternated gaining two strokes on the greens and losing two strokes on the greens each round; unfortunately for him, it was enough to see him miss out on his third straight win. Grade: B+

T2. Tony Finau (-11): He entered the weekend in possession of a two-stroke lead and saw it quickly disappear on Saturday. Carding a third-round 72, Finau lost more than three strokes on approach, three more on the greens and went in the wrong direction on Moving Day. The putter has been improved ever since the Mexico Open, but the consistency is still lacking and has caused some up-and-down play that was on full display at Memorial Park. Grade: A-

T28. Sahith Theegala (-5): There was a lot of good but not great golf from Theegala this week. He neither signed for a single over-par round nor did any better than a 67 across the four days. He continues to make significant improvements off the tee, where he ranked inside the top five, and this allowed for his iron play to shine. Typically a reliable putter, Theegala fell short on the greens losing just about two strokes and getting up-and-down at a measly 50% clip. He should love where his game is at heading into the Masters where he finished T9 in his debut last year. Grade: B-

T31. Wyndham Clark (-4): Clark began the week disclosing he had tweaked his back in the gym and contemplated withdrawing before receiving some treatment. His ball speed was at normal levels throughout the tournament, but a few too many mistakes in his middle round ultimately made him a non-factor Sunday. The reigning U.S. Open champion raced inside the top half of the field thanks to a final-round 66, and he now sets his sights on Augusta National for his Masters debut. Grade: C

T73. Will Zalatoris (+4): After losing nearly five strokes with the broom stick on Thursday, Zalatoris battled to make the cut, but the damage was already done. Despite making his way to the weekend to avoid back-to-back early exits, the wiry right hander never got anything going. After strong showings at the Genesis Invitational and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Zalatoris has fallen off ever so slightly, especially on the greens. With his ball striking in tow, Zalatoris’ prospects for the Masters remain super intriguing given his finishes of second and T6 in two prior appearances. Grade: D

SOURCE: [cbssport.com]