What We Learned: Wells Fargo Championship


Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the world of golf. This week, our writers weigh in on Derek Ernst showing up big names such as Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy to earn his first Tour victory, and the great show that Cristie Kerr and Suzann Pettersen put on at Kingsmill.

Let’s cut Quail Hollow some slack, as Phil Mickelson suggested. Yes, the greens were soft and bumpy and patchy. Yes, it was rainy and cold and windy. But the tournament that annually crowns up-and-coming stars was at it again Sunday. Since 2008, Wells Fargo has launched the careers of Anthony Kim, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler. The latest champion is Derek Ernst, a 22-year-old UNLV product who advanced through all four stages of last year’s Q-School, and in Charlotte withstood weekend charges from such names as Phil and Westy, Rory and Watney. Not a bad leaderboard for a beat-up venue. – Ryan Lavner

Cristie Kerr vs. Suzann Pettersen is great theater.

Two of the most intense players in women’s golf went head to head Sunday in an LPGA classic at Kingsmill. They’re so intensely wound you wondered when they were tied after 72 holes if LPGA rules officials should explain to them that “sudden-death playoff” is a term that isn’t meant literally. Yeah, that’s a joke. There’s mutual respect between them, but they waged a magnificent battle all day long before Kerr prevailed after two extra holes. It left you hoping USA’s Kerr and Norway’s Pettersen get a meaningful rematch when the Americans try to win back the Solheim Cup from the Europeans at the Colorado Club in August. – Randall Mell

Apologies for the contradiction, but I’m going to tell you what I didn’t learn this week instead. I didn’t learn that Derek Ernst is a PGA Tour member. I knew that already, I promise. But I couldn’t have picked him out of a lineup, couldn’t have told you one thing about his season so far and couldn’t have told you how he’d handle the pressure of a final-round title contention amongst a handful of superstars. As it turns out, he’s a kid who looks all of his 22 years with the infectious laugh to go along with it, he had made only two previous cuts with a season-best T-47 last week and he can handle the pressure just fine. I also didn’t learn whether this means Q-School died an untimely and unnecessary death last year. Ernst made it through all four stages and may wind up being the last great success story, but that may not be enough to validate the old format. And lastly, I didn’t learn what this means for him going forward. Is he the next young up-and-comer? A one-hit wonder? Something in between? I have no idea. But I do know he was terrific when it mattered at Quail Hollow. – Jason Sobel