Jaeger Wins First PGA Tour Title With Scheffler’s 72nd Hole Miss

HOUSTON (AP) — Stephan Jaeger couldn’t have dreamed up a better scenario for his first PGA Tour victory. He played the final 36 holes with the best player in the world, and he won the Houston Open on Sunday to earn his first trip to the Masters.

“It feels amazing,” Jaeger said.

Scottie Scheffler couldn’t imagine a tougher way for his March winning streak to end — a clutch shot to 5 feet on the final hole, and a birdie putt he thought was good until he looked up and realized it wasn’t.

“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,” Scheffler said. “So a bit disappointing, but Stephan played great this week and he’s a deserving champion.”

Jaeger closed with nine straight pars, and that was just enough for a 3-under 67 to finally win in his 135th attempt on the PGA Tour.

Jaeger was preparing for a playoff after narrowly missing a 20-foot birdie putt that would have assured the victory. But then Scheffler, who gave himself three good looks down the stretch, saw his putt burn the left edge of the cup.

“I expected him to make it, and I’m not mad at him for missing it,” Jaeger said.

Scheffler was trying to become the first player in seven years to win three straight starts on the PGA Tour, and he was right there with a chance. Two shots behind, he had a 20-foot eagle putt on the par-5 16th and settled for birdie. He missed from 12 feet for birdie on the 17th, and stayed alive when Jaeger missed from 7 feet on the reachable par-4 17th.

His last chance was from 5 feet.

“It would be one thing if I pulled it or something like that,” Scheffler said. “I just misread it. I don’t know why I misread it, it’s part of the game. Maybe I could have hit it with some more speed, I felt like I hit a nice putt kind of how I wanted to, just didn’t go.”

Jaeger, a 34-year-old German who came to high school in Tennessee when he was 16, earned his first trip to the Masters with the victory. He also is in the remaining four $20 million signature events this season.

Alejandro Tosti had a chance to become the fourth PGA Tour rookie to win this early in the year. He was tied for the lead until chipping too strong on the 18th and missing the 18-foot par putt for a 68.

There was a five-way tie for the lead at the start — the largest on tour since 2009 — and eight players had at least a share of the lead at some point during the round.

Jaeger was always in the mix, taking the lead with an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-3 ninth hole at Memorial Park. That was his last birdie of the day, and no one could beat him.

“I was just tried to stay within myself,” Jaeger said. “Birdies eluded me on the back nine. But this golf course plays difficult, especially when you’re around the lead. I’m just super happy.”

Thomas Detry, David Skinns and Taylor Moore all made mistakes down the stretch.

Scheffler was one shot behind when he missed the green on the par-3 15th and failed to save par on an 8-foot putt, falling two shots behind with three to play. He got one back with his birdie on the downwind 16th, where Jaeger had to lay up and settle for par.

Scheffler and Jaeger both missed good birdie chances on the 17th, and Scheffler had one last chance on the 18th.

Jaeger finished at 12-under 268 and cracks the top 50 in the world ranking for the first time.

“I couldn’t have dreamed up a better week,” Jaeger said. “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.”

Defending champion Tony Finau closed with two straight birdies for a 66 and joined Scheffler, Tosti, Detry and Moore in a tie for second.

This was the final week for players to move into the top 50 and earn a Masters invitation, and no one from outside the top 50 — Mackenzie Hughes and Tom Hoge had the best chances — did well enough to earn a spot.

Byeong Hun An is the only player from the top 50 added to the field for the Masters, which now includes Jaeger.