Fowler Nails down First Tour Victory

Though it took longer than many expected, Rickie Fowler has notched his first win on the PNA Tour, beating Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points on the first playoff hole in the Well Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C.

Fowler closed with a 3-under 69 to finish tied for the 72-hole lead with McIlroy (70) and Points (71) at 14-under 274. Local favorite and third-round leader, Webb Simpson, had a chance to make it a four-way playoff, needing a birdie on the par-4 closing hole. But the Charlotte resident and former Wake Forest All-American carded a par after missing his 23-foot birdie try. The 26-year-old settled for fourth place.

On the first playoff hole, the 18th, all three finalists hit excellent drives. Hitting first, Points put his approach well past the cup in the fringe. Fowler then stepped up and hit the wedge of his life to 4 feet, and underneath the hole. McIlroy hit last, but pushed his approach 34 feet to the right of the cup. After both Points and McIlroy two-putted for pars, Fowler calmly drained his birdie try and gave a modest fist pump in securing his first victory in 72 Tour starts.

As for his thoughts on the long wait for his maiden win, Fowler said at greenside, "Well worth it. Felt good to make the birdie here. It's awesome - a long wait but well worth it." The win was worth $1.170 million and 500 FedEx Cup points. Fowler's only triumph as a pro came last year in South Korea, where he beat McIlroy.

Fowler carded three birdies and two bogeys on the front nine, then got rolling with three birdies in six holes to start the home half. But he bogeyed the par-4 16th and got pars on the final two holes to qualify for the playoff.

Simpson finished with a 1-over 73 to end up at 13-under, while another two strokes back at 277 were England's Lee Westwood, who carded Sunday's low round, a 6-under 66, Ben Curtis (67) and Ryan Moore (74).

Westwood got off to a rousing start with four birdies and an eagle on the par-5 seventh hole for a 6-under 30. But the 39-year-old Englishman, ranked third in the world, could only muster a birdie and a bogey on the home half.

"It was a great front nine, wasn't it, put me in with a chance of winning the tournament," Westwood told reporters later. "There's some brutal flags out there on that back nine, and it's been tough. Wind is swirling a little bit, and the greens are just getting faster. Yeah, you'd like to attack around this golf course, but it just won't allow it sometimes."

With his high finish, McIlroy will supplant Luke Donald - who was idle this week - as the No. 1 player in the world when the rankings come out Monday.

Jonathan Byrd (69), James Driscoll (69), Jason Day (70) and Brian Davis (70) shared ninth at 9-under 279.

Phil Mickelson closed with a 71 to end up at 6-under 282 and a T-26 finish. The 40-time Tour winner got off to a rocky start, with three straight bogeys on Nos. 3-5 before he made birdies on the seventh and eight. He added three more birdies before a bogey on the last. "Later on I played okay, I just didn't get it going," he said. "I had a great week, though. I really enjoy coming out here. I enjoy playing this golf course.

"Tee to green it's a wonderful challenge. It's just the way the holes are shaped, they're beautifully done. I think the bunkering here is some of the best I've ever seen, too, the way the bunkers were manicured, also the simple form of the bunkers. It's not over bunkered. It's not bunkers everywhere you look, there's just one strategically placed that shapes the hole. It's just really well done here."

Mickelson will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Monday along with Hollis Stacy, Dan Jenkins, Sandy Lyle and Peter Alliss. When asked whether he'd completed his acceptance speech, Lefty replied, "I haven't started it. I was going to work on it tonight."

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