Fourth alternate makes most of opportunity

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – As fourth alternate for the Wells Fargo Championship, PGA Tour rookie Derek Ernst was planning to play this week’s Web.com Tour event. He was driving from New Orleans – where he finished a career-best T-47 last week – to Athens, Ga., when he got the call that with players withdrawing in droves, he was in.

So Ernst dropped off one rental car, picked up another and made his way to Charlotte.

Good idea.

He posted eight birdies Thursday during an opening round of 5-under 67, tying his best score on the PGA Tour and leaving him in a seven-way tie for the lead.

“I birdied four straight holes through 17,” said Ernst, who started on the back nine. “Seventeen was sweet. It was like a 60-footer from just right on the front edge of the green there. Then probably birdieing [No.] 8 to get back to 5 [under] right there at the end. Felt good to get back there.”