Ernst Shocks Golf World with Win at Quail Hollow

It was quite the star-studded leaderboard coming down the stretch of the Wells Fargo Championship. The contenders included such well-known names as Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy, three players ranked among the top-12 in the world.

But it was a 22-year-old Tour rookie, Derek Ernst, who triumphed in the $6.7 million PGA Tour event at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C. Ernst, who entered the tournament ranked 1,207th in the world and with only seven previous starts - and five missed cuts - on the Tour, closed with a 2-under 70 to tie David Lynn (70) at 8-under 280 in regulation and then beat the 37-year-old Englishman with a par on the first sudden-death playoff hole.

"This feeling is unbelievable right now," said Ernst, who birdied the final hole to reach 8-under. "All week long my swing felt good, mental game was good. The big thing was, what I said all week long is, I got out of my own way, and it paid off for now."

Lynn told reporters later that Ernst was an unknown entity but someone who was quite impressive in such tough circumstances. "I've never heard of him," said Lynn, who was paired in the last round with the 2012 UNLV grad and Fresno, Calif., native. "He's a nice player. He said he was 180th on the FedEx Cup list when we were chatting on the way around.

"He played super. I mean, he could have won it quite easily in regular play. He played the finish really solid, and then he hit two really solid shots in the playoff. So every credit to him. Well done."

Mickelson, who began the final round tied for the lead with Nick Watney, finished with a 1-over 73 to take solo third at 7-under. After carding two birdies and a bogey on a chilly and wet Sunday in Charlotte, the four-time major champion was in the driver's seat until he came to par-4 16th, which he bogeyed.

Even more damaging was his bogey on the par-3 17th, which knocked him out of the lead. Needing a birdie on the last to join the playoff, Mickelson instead got a par for a 73. "I'm pretty bummed out," he told reporters. "I thought I had the tournament under control. It's very disappointing. I would have liked to have won this one."

Sharing fourth at 6-under 282 were Sweden's Robert Karlsson and Westwood, who both shot 72s, while another stroke back were Kyle Stanley - who matched the low round of the day, a 4-under 68, Bo Van Pelt (71), Kevin Streelman (72) and Ryan Moore (73).

McIlroy, who began the day three strokes behind 54-hole co-leaders Mickelson and Nick Watney, shot a 73 to fall into a tie for 10th at 4-under 284 with England's Ross Fisher (70), Charles Howell III (71), Vaughn Taylor (71), Brian Harman (73) and Watney, who could only muster a 2-over 74.

"It was pretty difficult," McIlroy told reporters of the weather. "It felt like I was coming into it pretty well. Tough conditions, blustery winds, obviously, it was very wet today. I thought anything in the 60s was probably going to have a chance. I made a couple of mistakes coming in."

The biggest final-round fall was by Jason Kokrak who, like McIlroy was only three back before the start of the final round. But the 27-year-old long-hitting Canadian - who now resides in Charlotte - closed with an 8-over 80 to end up tied for 50th at 3-over 291.

The victory for Ernst, worth $1.17 million, 500 FedEx Cup points and a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, was huge. "The money is money, it will come and go," he said. "But winning and having a job and playing out here for the next two years, that's what I want to do. I want to play out here, so that is the best part."

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