SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – As Stephan Jaeger was chasing history at the Web.com Tour’s Ellie Mae Classic in Hayward, Calif., Tony Finau was glued to his phone Thursday evening on the East Coast.
Yes, Finau had a 7:40 a.m. tee time Friday at Baltusrol Golf Club. No, he couldn’t go to sleep. Not with a 59 watch going on.
“I was actually following it on Twitter,” Finau said Friday after his second round at the 98th PGA Championship. “It was late here and I had an early tee time this morning, but it was hard not to follow because he was already 11 under through 15 holes. I stayed up to see if he can do it.”
Jaeger, a 27-year-old German who played his college golf at Chattanooga, added a closing birdie at TPC Stonebrae’s par-5 ninth hole to shoot 12-under 58, the first such score in Web.com Tour history, breaking the record of 59 held by Notah Begay III, Doug Dunakey, Jason Gore, Will Wilcox and Russell Knox.
“Even the bad shots, I’d get a good bounce and have like 15 feet and I’d hole that,” said Jaeger, the world’s 958th-ranked player, who went bogey-free with 12 birdies on the par-70, 7,100-yard layout.
Jaeger holds Chattanooga records with four victories and a 72.1 scoring average during his career, which was highlighted by him earning All-American honors and winning an NCAA Regional in 2012. This season on the Web.com Tour, Jaeger is 102nd on the tour’s money list. The top 25 at the end of the season earn their PGA Tour cards for next season.
Harold Varner III, who like Finau is also competing at Baltusrol this week, played college and Web.com Tour events with Jaeger.
“Last time I played with him he said he had the driver yips,” said Varner, referencing the 2015 BMW Charity Pro-Am. “I guess he figured it out. He usually gets it going, though, so it’s not surprising. He got it going in college.”
Varner tied for 66th at TPC Stonebrae in 2015, shooting 67-70-71-72.
“I didn’t see a 58 out there, that’s for sure,” Varner said. “But I don’t care where you play. It’s pretty cool. I saw it last night when I was eating dinner. They were saying he could par the last three to shoot 59 and I’m like holy…”
Finau won the 2014 Stonebrae Classic and fired a second-round 62.
“Honestly, I shot 62 there … and had a chance at 60 on the 18th hole,” Finau recalled. “Hit it to about 50 feet and had that for a 60. So obviously yeah you can see it, but to do it is totally different.
“To make that many birdies and not make any mistakes, it’s really hard to do because we know it’s a totally different pressure when you’re chasing history like that.”
Jaeger, whose 58 tied Ryo Ishikawa’s score in a Japan Tour event in 2010, the only other such score in a world-ranked pro event, said he felt that pressure.
“Right now, I’m actually kind of happy to be done, to be honest with you. It’s very stressful,” he said after his round.
While stressful, Jaeger’s successful run at history was fun to watch, even for players competing in a major championship.
Finau’s initial reaction: “Incredible.” Yes, incredible indeed.