Friday, March 23, 2018

Rookie Ernst wins Wells Fargo Championship

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An odd week at the Wells Fargo Championship finished with a final surprising turn of events when rookie Derek Ernst birdied the 18th hole to force a playoff and then won on the first extra hole against David Lynn on Sunday for his first PGA Tour win.

Ernst, 22, was playing only his eighth tour event. He was the tournament's fourth alternate at the start of the week. He was No. 1,207 in the world ranking.

"This feeling is unbelievable right now," said Ernst, whose $1.2 million win gets him into this week's Players Championship. He also qualifies for two World Golf Championship events, the PGA Championship, next year's Tournament of Champions and the 2013 Masters. He also gets a two-year tour exemption.

In the cold, windy, rainy final round on the 18th, Ernst choked up on a 6-iron from 192 yards and drilled his shot to 4 feet. His birdie gave him 2-under 70 and put him in the playoff with Lynn (70).

On the 18th hole in the playoff, as the rain started falling harder, Ernst hit a 3-iron left of the flag to 15 feet. Lynn went from the bank of a creek to the bunker to the rough behind the green, and Ernst won with a par.

"I've never heard of him," Lynn said of Ernst. "He's a nice player."

So ended a strange week at the Quail Hollow Club. The greens were shockingly bad due to weather and agronomical issues, which led to several players dropping out. The sun never really came out during the tournament, and the wind chill Sunday morning made it hard to believe it was the first weekend in May.

Phil Mickelson had a one-shot lead with three holes to play until making back-to-back bogeys, missing putts of 6 feet and 10 feet. His 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th narrowly missed, and Mickelson closed with 73 that left him one shot out of the playoff.

"I'm pretty bummed out," he said. "I thought that this was one I had in control."

Rory McIlroy was one shot behind when he made double bogey on the 12th hole. He had 73 and finished at 4 under.

LPGA: Cristie Kerr made a short par putt on the second hole of a playoff with Suzann Pettersen to win the Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Va. Kerr shot 2-under 69 and Pettersen 67 to finish at 12-under 272 on the River Course. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome (70) finished 1 over and Tampa resident Kristy McPherson (79) 15 over.

Champions: Esteban Toledo became the tour's first Mexican winner, beating Mike Goodes with a par on the third hole of a playoff in the Insperity Championship at the Woodlands, Texas. Toledo, 50 and making his ninth tour start, finished with 5-under 67 to match Goodes (72) and Gene Sauers (74) at 6-under 210. Sauers was eliminated on the second playoff hole.