By Jeremy Harness
zimbio.com file photo: Stephan Jaeger makes web.comtour history with the lowest 36 and 54 hole marks at the Ellie Mae Classic in Hayward
HAYWARD, Calif. – Going into this week, Stephan Jaeger did not have a single win in the four years that he has played on a major pro tour. He scratched that one off the list in emphatic fashion Sunday afternoon.
The 27-year-old German, who played his college golf at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, immediately took control of the Web.com Tour’s Ellie Mae Classic at TPC San Francisco at Stonebrae and never lightened his grip.
He made only one bogey during the entire tournament and set several scoring records along the way – the lowest score in the history of the Web.com Tour as well as the lowest 36 and 54-hole marks, and finally, the lowest 72-hole score as he finished with an overall mark of 30-under par – and as a result, he was the wire-to-wire winner.
The victory, which he sealed Sunday with a seven-under 63 to win by nine strokes, also means that he will now be in the top-25 on the tour’s money list, and if that holds up to the end of the season, he will have full exemption on the PGA Tour next season.
“I’m speechless,” Jaeger said. “It was a phenomenal week for me. I stayed in the moment today, which was hard. (But) I knew if I played solid all the way around, it was going to be hard to catch me. I really played very, very solid today.
“I won a few small mini-tour events, and you get a check for $2,000 or something, but it’s a little different story this week (in receiving $108,000 for this victory),” he continued. “But if you win a golf tournament, you’re happy, no matter what stage. Obviously the bigger the stage, the more benefits come out of it.”
Jaeger said after Saturday’s round that someone could get hot, which would make things quite interesting down the stretch, and for the first six holes, that’s exactly what happened.
His closest competitor, San Diego State grad Xander Schauffele, made virtually every out he looked at for the first six holes, compiling four birdies to go along with an eagle in that span and cutting Jaeger’s sizable lead to four shots before a bogey at the par-4 eighth derailed his momentum.
“I did everything I could,” Schauffele said. “That was all I had, and it clearly wasn’t enough.”
Meanwhile, Jaeger continued to make birdies without any mistakes in between. He played the front nine bogey-free and threw in five birdies to keep Schauffele – or anyone else, for that matter – to gain any more ground.
Rhein Gibson, the owner of the lowest golf round ever recorded with a 55 four years ago, needed that kind of performance on Sunday to catch Jaeger, but he did not get it. Although he made a nice run at it, shooting (a five-under 65), he simply ran out of holes, and Jaeger did not give any opportunities to make up ground.
Not everyone was knocking in birdies at a regular clip, however. Maverick McNealy, who is the world’s top amateur and is currently going into his senior year at Stanford, took a considerable step back from his first two rounds.
After posting a 67 and a 66 on Thursday and Friday, respectively, he struggled mightily on Saturday and shot 78 to take himself out of the running right then and there. He did come back on Sunday and shot an under-par round, however, but he was nowhere near a threat to Jaeger’s title.