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2024 PGA Tour: Stephan Jaeger Defeats Scottie Scheffler at Texas Youngsters’s Houston Open

2024 PGA Tour: Stephan Jaeger Defeats Scottie Scheffler at Texas Youngsters’s Houston Open

Whenever a first-time winner emerges on the PGA Tour, there’s always talk about how such unexpected victories may be attributed to LIV Golf’s emergence. The argument is, with several top players shifting loyalties, winning on the PGA Tour has become easier. However, there were no ifs and buts when it came to Stephan Jaeger’s triumph at the 2024 Texas Children’s Houston Open.

The one-shot win on Sunday, March 31, is as solid as the German’s belief in familial ties. He even beat World No 1 Scottie Scheffler.

It was an affirmation of the years of hard work, first on the Korn Ferry Tour, and now winning in his 135th start on the PGA Tour after coming close a few times.

The T3 at the Farmers Insurance Open and Mexico Open are still spoken of with pride, but the misses are in the past. This is a time to celebrate and ruminate on the journey leading to the week at the Memorial Park Golf Course in Houston, Texas. As he soaks it in, Jaeger’s mind will surely wander to that missed putt on the 18th green.

It wasn’t Jaeger who stood watching on the fringe with bated breath. The focus was on Scheffler, up for birdie from a little over 5 feet. Holing it would have forced a playoff, and sudden death is always about the man who holds his nerve.

Had Scheffler not missed, it would have been an advantage to the World No 1 and a possible third consecutive win in as many starts, but pressure putts are known to do strange things to even the best in the business.

An emotional roller coaster for Stephan Jaeger at the 2024 Texas Children’s Houston Open

The speculation of what could have been, takes nothing away from Jaeger’s win. This is his week, the one where he stopped the juggernaut called Scottie Scheffler.

Jaeger owes his love for golf to his parents, who had introduced him and elder sister Michaela to the sport. The family also lived close to a golf course during their time in Germany.

Losing his father, Klaus, two years ago during the week of the 2022 Players Championship, coincided with a lot of Jaeger’s lowest moments on the golf course. His son Fritz was conceived the same week his father passed away, resulting in a maelstrom of emotions for Jaeger, who was playing “terrible” at the time.

Jaeger is in a better state emotionally and mentally now, and had he not won on Sunday, he believes he would have still said the same words in his victory speech: “This is just golf. It’s so hard sometimes. We want to make it way more than it is you, but at the end of the day, like I said, you still have a family to come back to, they still love you and there’re worse things than not winning a golf tournament or missing the cut.”

Lucky charms

Jaeger carries three ball markers in his golf bag, which were created by his wife Shelby. Before playing each round, he pulls out one marker at random. For the first three days, he got the one emblazoned with Fritz’s name alongside a four-leaf clover. On Sunday, it was a toss-up between the other two: One with “Papa Klaus” and the other with “Phil”, the name of his dog. In a serendipitous twist, Jaeger took out Klaus’ marker.

Jaeger had smiled at what he had in his palm. “That was my good omen for the day, for sure,” he said. When it was over on the 72nd hole, there was nostalgia. “[Dad] would be rolling over, happy. Yeah, we miss him. My mom’s coming over next week, so we’ll celebrate with her a little bit. Yeah, it will be great.”

Building perspective

All this from a man who, through his tribulations, had learnt that despite depending on golf for a livelihood, his family ranked above everything else. “With my son being born, it didn’t matter if I was a professional golfer or if I was a carpenter, he was still going to love me, I’m still going to love him and to have that perspective really helped.”

As Jaeger heads to his maiden Masters Tournament at 34, he can also look forward to getting an exemption on the PGA Tour till 2026. His entry is also secured for 2024’s remaining four Signature events, PGA Championship and the 2025 Sentry.

“It is hard, still happens sometimes. That’s a work in progress. Golf’s our life, that’s how we make our living, so to kind of put that in perspective you’ve got to realise, hey, if we don’t have golf, we’re still going to be a happy family,” he said, reflecting on his bumpy journey to the top.

A week best forgotten for Scottie Scheffler

Having bagged two titles in two weeks (Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players), followed by a week off to rest his neck and mind, Scheffler was raring to go at the Houston Open for a third consecutive win.

But that missed putt on the 18th capped how the week rolled out, despite Scheffler contending all through. By his lofty standards, Friday was a low moment after he missed shooting under-par following the bogey on the 18th. The even-par 70 at the Memorial Park Golf Course broke his record of straight 28 rounds of under-par golf.

There was a bounce back with rounds of 66 and 68, and the birdie putt, again on the 18th, could have led to redemption in the Sunday playoff, a zone Scheffler is hugely familiar with. But sometimes things don’t always go as planned, leading to his subsequent T2 finish.

Scheffler acknowledges that he tried his best, but is looking to quickly shut out what transpired. “I’ll move on as quickly as possible. Obviously, I’m a bit disappointed.”

With the Masters round the corner, Scheffler needs every bit of positive energy to recapture the Green Jacket he put on in 2022, and another week off will help him reboot and recharge.

Rookie on fire

Alejandro Tosti’s name may not ring a bell yet, but if his show at the Houston Open is an inkling, the world will hear a lot more of this rookie.

In just his 12th start on Tour, the quick learner from Rosario, Argentina, bettered his previous best T10 at the 2023 Mexico Open. By matching Scheffler’s birdie count of 22 for the week, Tosti was right up there, and the T2 put him alongside names like the 2023 champion Tony Finau at 11-under 269.

“I’ll have my revenge,” may not have been the right choice of words, but what Tosti meant was that he isn’t giving up his pursuit of greatness any time soon. After all, this is what every pro golfer aims for.

“Being in contention for the tournament, that’s what I worked so hard for all my life. Just to be able to have the opportunity and live it in blood, it’s just priceless,” he said.

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Record for posterity

It was a mixed bag for the Coody brothers, with Pierceson making cut and Parker missing out, but the result did not matter here. By being paired in the first round of the Houston Open, the duo created a record on the PGA Tour by becoming the first twins to tee off in the same group.

As identical twins, differentiating one from the other is tough, and Scheffler, who invited them over for dinner some time back, admitted to getting them mixed up as well. But the confusion didn’t matter as the brothers soaked in the Schefflers’ hospitality and learnt a lot from Scottie’s humble demeanour despite being World No 1.

That lesson will be handy as the brothers try to get better, and the exposure at the Houston Open is definitely one more step in that direction.

(Main and featured images: PGA Tour/ Instagram)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who won the 2024 Texas Children’s Houston Open?

At 34, Stephan Jaeger broke through on the PGA Tour with his maiden win at the Texas Children’s Houston Open in his 135th start.

Who did Stephan Jaeger beat to win the Houston Open?

Stephan Jaeger ended Sunday with a one-shot lead. World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler had to birdie the 18th to force a playoff, but that was not to be, and the German ended the week with a final score of 12-under 268 (69, 66, 66, 67).

What came Stephan Jaeger’s way after the Houston Open win?

The trophy got Stephan Jaeger USD 1.68 million out of a total purse of USD 9.1 million, 500 FedExCup points and a jump to No. 11 in the FedExCup standings, and climb from No 71 to 43 on the Official World Golf Ranking. With full playing rights on the PGA Tour through 2026, Jaeger is assured of entry to the remaining four Signature events in 2024, spots at the 2024 Masters and PGA Championship, and the 2025 Sentry.

How many first-time winners has the PGA Tour seen in 2024?

Stephan Jaeger’s breakthrough at the Houston Open made him the fifth first-time winner on the PGA Tour season. The others are Nick Dunlap (The American Express), Matthieu Pavon (Farmers Insurance Open), Jake Knapp (Mexico Open at Vidanta) and Austin Eckroat (Cognizant Classic).

Source: Prestige Online

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