The confusing reason Keith Mitchell was rooting for Stephan Jaeger at the Farmers

Keith Mitchell at the American Express and Stephan Jaeger at the Farmers.

Keith Mitchell had more than one reason to root for Stephan Jaeger.

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If you’re having trouble understanding the situation Keith Mitchell was in Saturday during the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open, we don’t blame you.

Let’s start with how Mitchell played this week. Unfortunately for the veteran pro from Tennessee, not good enough. Mitchell posted back-to-back rounds of 71 at Torrey Pines to miss the midway cut by one stroke.

With the Farmers starting on Wednesday and thus the cut coming on Thursday instead of Friday, that led the 11th-year pro with some extra time before the season’s second Signature event gets underway Thursday at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Despite not finishing in the top 50 of last season’s FedEx Cup standings, Mitchell was slated to be in the field at Pebble to meet the tournament’s required 80-man field. The Pebble event is the only Signature event that is required to have the maximum 80-man field due to the pro-am portion of the tournament. It’s also the only Signature event with an alternate list.

According to Jim Nantz on the Farmers final round CBS broadcast, Mitchell decided to spend the extra time by heading to Pebble early and checking into his rental house.

Getting to spend extra time at Pebble Beach? These Tour pros have a rough life, right?

Well, it wasn’t that simple. Turns out Mitchell’s place in the field was in a rather precarious position.

With the field needing 80 players, the PGA Tour uses this year’s priority ranking, for our purposes last year’s FedEx Cup Fall standings, to fill out the remainder of the field. Given the different eligibility categories for Signature events, specifically the number of tournament winners and players in the top 30 Official World Ranking who would not otherwise qualify, it’s no sure thing how many players would be needed to fill the field.

The top 50 finishers in last year’s FedEx Cup standings are into all eight Signature Events while Nos. 51 to 60 from the FedEx Cup Fall standings are into Pebble and the Genesis.

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Mitchell was No. 69 on the list.

Here’s where things get interesting. After finishing T3 last week at the American Express, Justin Thomas moved into 5th on the Aon Swing 5 list, which awards the top five FedEx Cup point earners in the full-field events preceding the Siggys spots into them. However, Thomas also moved back to No. 23 in the world, virtually guaranteeing Thomas would be in the top 30 and get a spot at Pebble, so he withdrew from the Farmers.

In the likely event Thomas was bumped out of the Swing 5, it would mean one less player was needed from the priority ranking, and that odd man out would be Mitchell.

That’s where Stephan Jaeger, the Farmers’ third-round leader becomes crucial. Jaeger, who finished No. 61 in the FedEx Cup Fall rankings, was basically guaranteed one of the extra spots into the Pebble field. So if Jaeger was able to move into the Aon Swing 5, replacing Thomas, it would immediately open a spot back up for Mitchell, ironically his high school teammate from Baylor School in Chattanooga.

Things were looking good when Jaeger birdied two of the first three holes at Torrey Pines South top open a three-stroke lead. However, he bogeyed the 12th and 14th holes to fall out of the lead and then hit his tee shot in the penalty area on 17.

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He managed a bogey on the 71st but was still trailing Matthieu Pavon by two on the 72nd. He needed a miracle on the par 5 to have a chance at a playoff, but his championship hopes were dashed when Pavon muscled his approach from the thick rough to nine feet and made the putt to win.

However, Jaeger birdied the final hole as well, good enough to move him back into a tie for third at 11 under. The finish came with 145 FedEx Cup points, plenty to move him into fifth in the Aon Swing 5 standings, making sure Mitchell wasn’t renting a house at Pebble for nothing.

The final Aon Swing 5 list ended up being Pavon, Sony Open winner Grayson Murray, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Kevin Yu and Jaeger.

This is a situation that isn’t likely to be repeated since other Signature Events won’t need to necessarily have 80 players. In total eight extra players were needed to fill out the field.

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