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Ernst goes from alternate to PGA Tour winner

The 22-year-old rookie, who started the week ranked 1,207th in world, beats David Lynn in playoff at Wells Fargo Championship.

A WEEK LIKE no other at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C., held one final surprise yesterday 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, playing only his ninth PGA Tour event, 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 in the playoff, as the cold rain started coming down harder, Ernst hit a 3-iron left of the flag to 15 feet and went on 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.

The victory gets him into The Players Championship next week. And he qualifies for two World Golf Championships, the PGA Championship, the Tournament of Champions next year, 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 Tour event. He received a call Monday afternoon that enough players had pulled out that he was in the Wells Fargo Championship.

He won just over $1.2 million.

In other tournaments * 

At Williamsburg, Va., Cristie Kerr made a short par putt on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff with Suzann Pettersen to win the Kingsmill Championship for the third time.

Kerr shot a 2-under 69, and Pettersen had a 67 to finish at 12-under 272 on the River Course.

* At The Woodlands, Texas, Esteban Toledo celebrated Cinco de Mayo by becoming the first Mexican winner in Champions Tour history, beating Mike Goodes with a par on the third hole of a playoff in the Insperity Championship.

Toledo eagled the opening hole and finished with a 5-under 67 to match Goodes and Gene Sauers at 6-under 210.

Goodes shot a 72, and Sauers - eliminated on the second playoff hole - had a 74.