First-Round Notes – Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship

David Lipsky (courtesy PGA Tour)
Stephan Jaeger (courtesy PGA Tour)

First-Round Notes – Thursday, August 26, 2021

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

David Lipsky, Stephan Jaeger share lead at Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship

COLUMBUS, Ohio  Stephan Jaeger and David Lipsky, both of whom already secured PGA TOUR cards for the upcoming 2021-22 season as members of The 25, carded matching bogey-free 8-under 63s and shared the lead after the first round of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship.

Jaeger and Lipsky tied the 18-hole tournament scoring record previously set by four players, though it was one stroke shy of the course record for The Ohio State University Golf Club’s Scarlet Course. This week’s venue is regarded as one of the toughest courses on the Korn Ferry Tour, but heavy rainfall amid Wednesday thunderstorms contributed to lower opening-round scores Thursday.

“Because of the rain and the heat, the rough is really juicy,” Lipsky said. “But if you can keep your ball in the fairway, the greens are the most receptive I’ve ever seen them, so it makes some of these pin locations really accessible. If you’re hitting it straight, the scores are out there for you.”

Having played collegiately at Northwestern University, Lipsky has a little more familiarity with the Scarlet Course than the majority of this week’s field. As a redshirt junior in April 2009, Lipsky helped the Wildcats win a team title at the Ohio State-hosted Kepler Intercollegiate. The following year, Lipsky fired a 4-under 67 and finished T4 in the 54-hole event.

A hot putter and strong iron play were the keys to Lipsky’s 63 Thursday. The Las Vegas, Nevada resident and soon-to-be PGA TOUR rookie opened with back-to-back birdies at Nos. 10 and 11, then eagled the par-5 12th to reach 4-under par. Lipsky later birdied the par-4 15th, par-5 fourth and sixth, and par-4 seventh.

About the only thing that went wrong for the 33-year-old was a cracked driver, which he and his caddie discovered after his final tee shot. Fortunately for Lipsky, a former college roommate who followed his group Thursday, Jonathan Bowers, has several of Lipsky’s old clubs. The collection includes some backup drivers. More importantly, Bowers is from Columbus and lives down the road from the Scarlet Course.

There will be little caviling from Lipsky over what drivers Bowers has on hand.

“I have no idea what he’s bringing, (a driver) at least two to three years old,” Lipsky laughed. “As long as the ball isn’t curving too much and goes relatively far, I’m good with it. I can compete with my irons, my putter, and my wedges and then fix everything next week.”

While Lipsky is chasing the No. 1 spot in the points standings among The 25 – as well as the fully exempt PGA TOUR status and exemption into THE PLAYERS Championship which comes with it – his primary focus at the moment is getting back into the rhythm of competition. Lipsky missed the bulk of June and all of July with a sprained finger. The injury left him unable to play for a little over four weeks.

“I’m just trying to get back into playing form, get everything sharp for the PGA TOUR season,” Lipsky said. “That’s really what my goal is these next few weeks, and if I end up winning, that’s great.”

Prior to Greyson Sigg’s victory in the first Korn Ferry Tour Finals event last week, Jaeger sat atop the Korn Ferry Tour points standings after 15 consecutive tournaments.

A two-time winner this season (one of them was a playoff victory over Lipsky at the Emerald Coast Classic at Sandestin this past April), Jaeger has come tantalizingly close to a Three-Victory Promotion – one of the perks of which is fully exempt status for the upcoming PGA TOUR season – multiple times. Jaeger’s most recent brush with it came at the regular season finale two weeks ago, when he carried the 54-hole lead into the final round of the Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna.

A hot putter once again has Jaeger atop the leaderboard, and in prime position to retake the No. 1 spot in the points standings.

Following three birdies on the back nine (at Nos. 13, 16, and 18), Jaeger made five on the front nine, with three coming in his final four holes of the day.

“I just putted lights out,” Jaeger said. “I had it rolling and just kept the pedal down.”

No matter how this week or the rest of the Korn Ferry Tour Finals shake out, Jaeger is headed back to the PGA TOUR for a third time. Consistently posting high finishes has long been Jaeger’s goal, and he more than accomplished that feat this season. The Munich, Germany native has two wins, three runners-up, a T3, and he entered the week fresh off back-to-back T4s.

Jaeger cited improved ball striking as the driving factor behind his remarkable consistency this season.

“I’m just enjoying the nice little run I’m on, and hopefully (I) can keep the pedal down and continue to play well all through the fall and into the next year,” Jaeger said. “I think I’m a lot more confident going (to the PGA TOUR) this time. I know most of the golf courses on TOUR and I’ve got a great team around me.”

Second-round tee times will run from 7:20 a.m. to 2:31 p.m. off the first and 10th tees.

First-Round Notes

  • Stephan Jaeger and David Lipsky tied the 18-hole tournament scoring record previously established by four players:
    • Jonathan Kaye (Round 1, 2010)
    • James Sacheck (Round 3, 2011)
    • Trevor Murphy (Round 1, 2012)
    • Derek Fathauer (Round 1, 2014)
  • Jaeger finished T5 at the 2020 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, and it was the first time in his five starts at the event he finished higher than T24
  • Lipsky is making his third career start at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship; he missed the cut in 2019 and 2020
  • Jaeger and Lipsky were responsible for two of the eight bogey-free rounds posted Thursday
  • Play was suspended due to lightning at 2:46 p.m. and resumed at 3:54 p.m. – a delay of one hour and eight minutes
  • Weather: Partly cloudy, high of 89 degrees, wind SE at 4-10 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 point 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

First-Round Course Statistics

  • Toughest Hole – No. 14, Par 4, 473 yards (4.219 – 10 birdies, 38 bogeys, one double bogey)
  • Easiest Hole – No. 12, Par 5, 562 yards (4.511 – four eagles, 67 birdies, six bogeys or worse)
  • Scoring Average (Front 9 – Par 36) – 35.482
  • Scoring Average (Back 9 – Par 35) – 34.234
  • Scoring Average (Total) – 69.715