Rookie Derek Ernst captured his first U.S. PGA Tour golf title by beating David Lynn in a playoff at the Wells Fargo Championship, a tournament he entered as the fourth alternate and with a world ranking of 1,207.
Ernst, 22, had one of the field’s four final-round birdies at the 18th hole to join England’s Lynn at 8-under par for the tournament at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. Ernst then parred the 18th in a rainy playoff to earn about $1.2 million and a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour.
“The money is money, it will come and go, but winning and having a job and playing out here for the next two years, that’s what I want to do,” said Ernst, who gets the final spot in this week’s Players Championship field. “I want to play out here, so that is the best part.”
Phil Mickelson finished a shot back in third place. Mickelson bogeyed the 16th and 17th holes to drop out of sole possession of the lead and missed a 21-foot birdie attempt at the last hole to join the playoff.
“I’m pretty bummed out,” Mickelson said. “I thought that this was one I had in control.”
Ernst was driving to Athens, Georgia, to play in an event on the PGA Tour’s developmental Web.com circuit when he received a phone call from tournament officials that he’d made the Wells Fargo Championship field. He’s the first alternate to win a PGA Tour title since Wes Short Jr. at the 2005 Michelin Championship.
Ernst had made seven prior starts on the PGA Tour this season, missing the cut for weekend play five times and finishing in ties for 47th and 59th place in the other events.
The $9.5 million Players Championship, the tour’s marquee event, begins May 9 at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.