Third-Round Notes – Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship; Hole-out eagle pulls Vincent Whaley even with Stephan Jaeger

Third-Round Notes – Saturday, August 28, 2021

Course Setup: The Ohio State University Golf Club (Scarlet Course) – Par 71 / 7,444 yards

Vincent Whaley
Vincent Whaley NCHC round 3 co leader Korn Ferry Tour 8 28 2021.mp3
Stephan Jaeger Korn
Stephan Jaeger NCHC 3rd round co leader Korn Ferry Tour 8 28 2021.mp3

COLUMBUS, Ohio  Stephan Jaeger and Vincent Whaley electrified fans Saturday at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship and reached 15-under par for the tournament, giving the pair of multi-season PGA TOUR players a one-stroke lead after 54 holes at The Ohio State University Golf Club’s Scarlet Course.

Jaeger entered the day with a share of the 36-hole lead, but early struggles left the Munich, Germany native scrambling as he tumbled down a congested leaderboard. The short-game maestro kept the round together with par save after par save until he closed the front nine with consecutive birdies. But as Whaley posted a 6-under 65 and reached 15-under par, it appeared Jaeger would end the day without a share of the lead for the first time this week.

Undeterred by the rocky start or three-stroke deficit, Jaeger climbed tenaciously to the top of the leaderboard once again, birdieing three of the final four holes for a bogey-free 5-under 66. And just like two weeks ago at the Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna, the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour regular season finale, Jaeger sank a riveting birdie putt at the 18th green and walked into the sunset with a 54-hole lead in hand.

“I didn’t feel that good early on. Made three incredible saves (at) Nos. 1, 2, and 3. (The next three holes) I started finding the middle of the clubface,” Jaeger said. “I hit one close on No. 15 and made two long putts on Nos. 16 and 18. If it’s kind of going your way, you see the good things, and I’ve been trying not to see the bad breaks and see the good ones. We got a few today, so I’m happy to kind of still be in this position and have a good chance to win tomorrow.”

For the fifth time this season, Jaeger holds at least a share of the 54-hole lead, and Sunday’s final round will be the sixth time he plays in the final group this season. It will also give Jaeger yet another run at a Three-Victory Promotion, which would grant him fully exempt status for the upcoming 2021-22 PGA TOUR season, no matter what happens at next week’s Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance.

In addition to the status which comes with a Three-Victory Promotion, a win Sunday would give Jaeger the strongest possible grip on the No. 1 ranking in The 25 points standings. It would also be the seventh win of his Korn Ferry Tour career, a total which would tie Jason Gore’s all-time record.

Jaeger came tantalizingly close to the historic victory at the 2021 Visit Knoxville Open this past May, brushed with it again when he lost a playoff at the 2021 REX Hospital Open this past June, and again as he played the first 10 holes at 3-over par and faded to a T4 in the regular season finale two weeks ago.

Even after those near-misses, and with questions about a Three-Victory Promotion and seventh career win arising yet again, Jaeger has not grown tired of discussing either topic.

“I’d like to have that question every time,” said Jaeger, who will begin his third PGA TOUR season this fall. “It’s so much fun being in the hunt and being in position to win. I’m going to enjoy tomorrow.”

While Jaeger thrilled the gallery with the putter, Whaley delivered the shot of the tournament at the par-4 14th – which, along with the par-4 11th, played as the toughest hole relative to par Saturday. Whaley had 142 yards to the flag at the 473-yard par 4; he landed a pitching wedge within two feet of the hole, and watched from the fairway as it spun back into the cup for an eagle.

“I was kind of stalled at that point, so that was helpful,” Whaley said. “I knew I was somewhat up (the leaderboard), but I needed a few more coming in to really get towards that final group, so that was huge.”

Whaley, who grew up in McKinney, Texas and played alongside Jordan Spieth and Scottie Scheffler on the state’s golf circuit, also made birdies at Nos. 1, 6, 12, and 15. The Georgia Tech alum’s 65 tied Adam Svensson for the lowest score of the third round.

Whaley played the 2020 and 2021 seasons on the PGA TOUR following a 25th-place finish in the 2019 Korn Ferry Tour regular season points standings. The 26-year-old posted a solo second and T3 in 2019, but his only professional wins to this point are mini-tour events.

Having learned several lessons from his two seasons on TOUR, Whaley hopes those experiences will lead to his first Korn Ferry Tour victory Sunday.

“The first year (on the PGA TOUR) was a big learning experience. I don’t know how ready I was for it, to be honest,” said Whaley, who finished 183rd in the 2020 FedExCup standings, and 140th in 2021. “But I felt like I got a lot better, especially this season. I haven’t won out here and I’ve only really been in contention twice, so that’s all I want to do… I’m just going to try to win the golf tournament.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do… win at this level. That’s all I really care about.”

Final-round tee times will run in groups of three from 8:20 a.m. through 10:20 a.m. off the first and 10th tees. Golf Channel will telecast tape delay coverage from 7-9 p.m.

Third-Round Notes

  • Stephan Jaeger has 11 top-10s in his last 21 starts – including two wins, three runners-up, a solo fourth – and he entered the week coming off back-to-back T4s
  • Jaeger previously carried at least a share of the 54-hole lead into the final rounds of the 2020 Albertsons Boise Open presented by Chevron, 2021 Visit Knoxville Open, 2021 REX Hospital Open, and 2021 Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna this season; he was in the final group in all four of those tournaments, and also played in the final group of the 2020 Orange County National Championship presented by Knight 39
    • 2020 Albertsons Boise Open presented by Chevron – Won
    • 2020 Orange County National Championship presented by Knight 39 – finished T2
    • 2021 Visit Knoxville Open – finished solo second
    • 2021 REX Hospital Open – finished solo second (lost playoff to Mito Pereira)
    • 2021 Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna – finished T4
  • Vincent Whaley has two top-10s in 35 PGA TOUR-sanctioned starts since the start of June 2020: a T10 at last week’s Albertsons Boise Open presented by Chevron, and a T9 at the PGA TOUR’s Barracuda Championship earlier this month
  • David Lipsky (3rd / -14) and Adam Svensson (4th / -13) have already secured PGA TOUR cards by finishing in the top 25 of the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour regular season points standings
  • Roberto Díaz (5th / -12) climbed five spots on the leaderboard Saturday and is in contention to earn his third PGA TOUR card; he previously earned a TOUR card when he finished 25th on the 2017 Korn Ferry Tour regular season money list, and again with a 14th-place finish in the 2018 Korn Ferry Tour Finals standings
  • Weather: Mostly cloudy, high of 88 degrees, wind SW at 4-12 mph
  • The Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship is the second event of the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, a three-event series which determines the second set of 25 PGA TOUR cards given out for the upcoming 2021-22 season; the first set of 25 PGA TOUR cards was awarded to the top 25 points earners through the 43-event 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour regular season
  • This week’s purse is $1,000,000, with $180,000 going to the champion; the champion will also receive 1,000 Korn Ferry Tour points

Third-Round Course Statistics

  • Toughest Hole – No. 11, Par 4, 473 yards; No. 14, Par 4, 473 yards (4.200)
  • Easiest Hole – No. 12, Par 5, 562 yards (4.354 – one eagle, 41 birdies, one bogey)
  • Scoring Average (Front 9 – Par 36) – 34.877
  • Scoring Average (Back 9 – Par 35) – 34.692
  • Scoring Average (Total) – 69.569

Cumulative Course Statistics

  • Toughest Hole – No. 2, Par 4, 472 yards (4.124 – 33 birdies, 70 bogeys, two double bogeys or worse)
  • Easiest Hole – No. 12, Par 5, 562 yards (4.467 – seven eagles, 183 birdies, 15 bogeys or worse)
  • Scoring Average (Front 9 – Par 36) – 35.225
  • Scoring Average (Back 9 – Par 35) – 34.451
  • Scoring Average (Total) – 69.676

RECAP COURTESY KORN FERRY TOUR & PGA TOUR

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