The PGA Tour's FedExCup playoffs will continue Thursday with the BMW Championship near Chicago, but Stephan Jaeger will not be among the 50 players competing after having been eliminated in last weekend's St. Jude Championship in Memphis despite tying for 20th.
Jaeger is hardly in a complaining mood, however, after completing his best professional season. The former Baylor School and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga golfing standout earned more than $2.31 million and led the entire tour with 26 made cuts.
Once recognized for his ability to go really low — Jaeger's round of 58 at the 2016 Ellie Mae Classic set the standard for either a Korn Ferry (known then as Web.com) or a PGA Tour competitor — the German-born player is now a model for consistency.
"I've been striving for that consistency for a while," Jaeger said earlier this week. "There have been weeks before when I got hot, and that was great, but there were a lot of off weeks, too. I'm driving it better now than I ever have, longer and straighter, and it's a lot harder to mess up a score when you're up there. I used to be at the bottom of the PGA Tour in driving, and this year I was in the top 40 for a while. Being able to play from further up has been a big difference.
"My putter this year was actually the worst of my career, so I'm looking into that. If I can get that back to where it needs to be or can be — that was my saving grace for years on tour — I'm going to be looking dangerous on the weekends for sure."
Jaeger's 26 made cuts transpired in 29 tournaments, with that 89.7% success rate ranking eighth on the PGA Tour behind Scottie Scheffler, Viktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka (who played only the four majors), Tyrrell Hatton, Jon Rahm and Rickie Fowler. Not since the RBC Heritage in mid-April has a cut eluded the 34-year-old, who ended his season by making 13 in a row.
In the 2021-22 season, Jaeger made 14 of 31 cuts, earning $1.29 million.
Four of Jaeger's final six tournaments this season resulted in top-20 finishes, highlighted by a tie for ninth at last month's Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, and his stellar year was made even more special with a traveling party containing his wife, Shelby, and their nearly 9-month-old son, Harrison.
"She brought him to the course at Wells Fargo and St. Jude, and I birdied both of those final holes, so maybe she needs to bring him out more often," Jaeger said. "When I see him, he will smile, and I'll take him from her and walk to the scoring area. It's hard to be sad after a tournament when you see your baby smiling at you after that 18th hole.
"I'm excited that we're all back home and hanging out, but in the back of my mind, I'm always looking for the next thing to work on and improve upon to get to that next level."
Jaeger's promising 2023-24 season will begin next month at the Fortinet Championship in Napa, California, followed by the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Mississippi, in early October. He also will stay busy in and around Chattanooga, having been hired last year to promote the scenic McLemore Highlands Course on Lookout Mountain.
After Jaeger plays in the Fortinet and Sanderson Farms events, he will team with former Baylor School and Alabama women's standout Brooke Pancake on Oct. 16 to co-host the First Tee and Friends fundraising tournament at the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club.
"This year marks the 17th year that I've been here," Jaeger said. "I came over from Germany when I was 17, so this actually splits my life in half. My time here has always revolved around golf, whether it was at Baylor or at UTC or wherever, and through these 17 years around golf, I've just made a lot of relationships.
"This is our home. This is our community, and we love being a part of it even though we're gone so much."
Contact David Paschall at [email protected].