A week like no other at Quail Hollow held one final surprise Sunday when 22-year-old rookie Derek Ernst birdied the 18th hole to force a playoff, and then won the Wells Fargo Championship on the first extra hole against David Lynn of England.
Ernst was playing only his ninth PGA Tour event. He was the fourth alternate at the start of the week. He was No. 1,207 in the world ranking.
None of that mattered when he choked up on a 6-iron from 192 yards and drilled his shot into 4 feet. He made one of only four birdies on the 18th in the final round, and this was the most important. It gave him a 2-under 70 and put him in a playoff with Lynn, who also shot 70.
The shot was no fluke. On the 18th hole in the playoff, as the cold rain started coming down 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 was able to win with a par.
Phil Mickelson, who had a one-shot lead with three holes to play, made bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes, and he narrowly missed a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th that would have allowed him to join the playoff. He had a 73 and finished third.
“This feeling is unbelievable right now,” said Ernst, who wasn’t sure where he was going at the start of the week and can’t believe where he’s going now.
For starters, the victory at Quail Hollow gets him into The Players Championship next week. He qualifies for two World Golf Championships, the PGA Championship, the Tournament of Champions next year at Kapalua and the Masters next April.
And to think he started this week in a rental car driving from New Orleans to Georgia to play a Web.com Tour event. He received a call Monday afternoon that enough players had pulled out — several stayed away because of the ragged greens — that he was in the Wells Fargo Championship.