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Stephen Jaeger embraces silver lining amid disappointing Farmers finish

5 Min Read



    Written by Paul Hodowanic @PaulHodowanic

    LA JOLLA, Calif. – Stephen Jaeger assumed there would be a charge. A six-time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour, Jaeger has played both the hunter and the hunted many times.

    You’d prefer to be the former at the Farmers Insurance Open. The last two winners came from five shots back on the final day to win and eight of the last 10 winners came from at least three shots back.

    Jaeger learned the hard way. The margin was smaller, but the result followed the trend. Jaeger, who entered the day with a one-shot lead, shot 72, While Matthieu Pavon shot 69 to win the Farmers Insurance Open at 13-under, two better than Jaeger.

    “In golf you quickly learn that it's not win or lose; sometimes you lose and you have a great week,” Jaeger said after the final round. “I've learned a lot about myself this weekend that I'm going to be able to take forward.”

    It’s a disappointing but notable finish for Jaeger, who had become one of the most consistent players on the PGA TOUR but hadn’t truly contended on a weekend of a TOUR event. Saturday was just the fourth time Jaeger led or co-led after any round in 129 events. One came earlier this week; he led by after the second round. The other two (2021 Corales Puntacana and 2023 Valspar Championship) came after the opening rounds. In both instances, Jaeger didn’t log another under-par round the rest of the week.

    His performance, although in a losing effort, showed how far the 34-year-old German has come. Since he regained his PGA TOUR card ahead of the 2022-23 season, improvement has been the name of the game. His mental approach, off-the-tee performance and putting have all undergone major recalibrations in recent years. His T3 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open was his most encouraging result yet.

    “It was awesome, it was great," said Jaeger, who has made 20 cuts in a row, the fourth longest active streak on TOUR behind Scottie Scheffler (36), Viktor Hovland (28) and Scottie Scheffler (27). "Listen, I didn't have my best stuff golf game-wise. I battled.”

    The work can be traced back to March 2022. That’s when he began training with strength coach Mike Carroll and prioritized speed. In Jaeger’s words, he was “crooked and short” off the tee. Not a good combo. The stats showed it. He ranked 184th in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee in 2021-22 and was outside the top 125 in Driving Distance and Accuracy. Carroll gave him a series of mobility exercises and got him started on speed training. It quickly made him both longer and more accurate off the tee. He averaged 306 yards off the tee in 2023, a 13-yard increase from the year before, and jumped into the top 50 in accuracy and SG: Off-the-Tee. It coincided with his best season on the PGA TOUR. For the first time in his career, he finished inside the top 125, qualified for the FedExCup Playoffs and nearly cracked the top 50.

    But his increased speed wasn’t the only reason he improved. He credits a greater focus on his mental performance. Too often Jaeger felt he should’ve gotten more out of his rounds. He would drive it good and putt it well but the scores wouldn’t reflect his performance. One or two mental mistakes hindered the performance, and Jaeger wasn’t reacting well when he made those mistakes.

    “The fact that he's going down these avenues where there's potential for improvement is a sign of how hard he's willing to work,” Carroll told

    On a whim several years ago, Jaeger decided to try meditating. He does it to this day. Fifteen minutes every day. But it was last spring that he decided to add more structure to his mental approach. He began working with mental coach Julie Elion, who aided Wyndham Clark in his breakout 2023 season and also works with Homa. Elion helped Jaeger think of his mental game as he does his driving or putting — an area that needs constant, daily attention.

    “We spend two hours on chipping and an hour of balls and putting for a couple hours and the mental game kind of gets left behind a little bit,” Jaeger said.

    Meditation remains the catalyst of his mental work, but Jaeger has added reading and listening to podcasts to his rotation. Anything that can help him sharpen his focus. The change wasn’t primarily for golf, either. It’s helped Jaeger be a better husband and father.

    “I used to get pretty angry and frustrated,” Jaeger said. “That's what kind of started it and it really helped with, you know, like golf as well.”

    Jaeger managed his frustrations to begin his final round on Saturday. He nearly jarred his approach from a fairway bunker on the par-4 second, spinning it to one foot for a tap-in birdie. Then he stuck his approach on the par-3 third to within two feet for another birdie. Pavon, at that point, was 1-over for his round and four shots back. Slowly Jaeger’s lead dwindled from there. Pavon made birdies on No. 4 and 6 while Jaeger carded a pair of pars. A bogey for Jaeger on No. 7 and a birdie from Pavon on No. 8 left the two tied entering the back nine. And it was Jaeger who blinked. Pavon made seven straight pars to start his back nine, while Jaeger gave shots back on No. 12 and No. 14. That was the difference.

    The margins are thin. Jaeger has done well to shrink them. Saturday showed that. It also showed there’s still work to do.

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