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5-1 Wells Fargo Open

Tournament Preview

In the first big tournament since the Masters, Rickie Fowler will attempt to defend his 2012 title beginning Thursday at the Wells Fargo Championship held at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A $6.7 million purse has attracted the likes of Hunter Mahan, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood.

Noticeably missing from the field are world No. 1 Tiger Woods and Masters champion Adam Scott, however with the Players championship next week and the Bryon Nelson the following week, neither absence is surprising.

Also missing is 50-year-old Vijay Singh, who withdrew from the tournament on Wednesday, one day after the PGA said it would not punish him for his admission of using deer antler spray, thought by some to carry a hormone which mimics insulin.
Singh won the Wells Fargo in 2005.

Despite Quail Hollow's notorious trio of closing holes - dubbed 'The Green Mile" - its 7,442 yard, 72-par course is player friendly. Every year since the tournament's inception, the winning score has been at least 10-under, and the last two years, the winner has been determined via playoff; including Fowler's 14-under triumph over McIlroy in 2012.

McIlroy owns the courses single-round record of 62, which he fired in 2010. The course itself will host the PGA Championship for the first time in 2017.

Defending champion Fowlers is as good a pick to win the tournament as any man in the field. The 24-year-old has finished in the Top 10 of three of his nine events so far in 2003, and racked up just over $1 million in prize money.

His best finish to date in 2013 came at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in late March as he fired and 8-under 280 to take third.

The tournament will also provide observers a chance to see if McIlroy and Mickelson, two recent No. 1 talents, can right their respective ships.

Using new equipment at the Masters, Mickelson shot a miserable 9-over to tie for 54th. That performance came just three weeks after he missed the cut at Bay Hill.

Although he has two top 10 finishes in 2013, McIlroy has been so erratic within rounds, it's hard to know what to expect of him.

He shot a respectable 2-over at the Masters to finish tied for 25th, but he was all over the place from hole to hole, making consecutive birdies just twice in 72 holes, and, after sitting at 1-under through 45 holes, completely wrecking his chances with a pair of triple bogies after the turn on Day Three.

02 May 2013 Thursday

Former No. 1 Rory McIlroy in first-place tie after Day One at Wells Fargo

Neither the course nor the stars disappointed on Day One of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday.

Former No. 1 and two-time Major winner Rory McIlroy was one of six men to fire a 5-under 67 to share the lead.

It's the first time in 2013 that McIlroy has been on the top of a leaderboard at the end of a day.

After a ho-hum start, McIlroy ripped off four straight birdies between holes No. 5-8. In all, he hit six birdies in an eight-hole stretch, but the other two were bogeys to temper his run.

The rest of the group atop the board wasn't as well-known: Nick Watney, Ryan Moore, Derek Ernst, Daniel Summerhays, Nate Smith and Robert Garrigus all shot 67s as well.

Rookie Ernst is ranked just 232nd in the world and is in rare territory after missing the cut at three of his last four events. Likewise, Summerhays is coming off back to back cuts after finishing seventh at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio at the beginning of April.

Phil Mickelson was part of a big group one stroke back at 68 after Thursday. Mickelson proudly showed off his new driver, dubbed "Frankenwood" to the crowd and the media before the tournament began.

Smith is the real wild card in the mix at the top, having qualified for the tournament on Monday. His golf bag drew plenty of stares on Thursday after he was pranked by fellow player James Hahn, who put a note on Smith's bag in the locker room asking players to sign it for a charity event.

There was no event, and so Smith spent Thursdy traveling the course with a bag sporting more than 60 fellow players' autographs on it.

The tournament continues through Sunday.

03 May , 2013 Friday

Phil Mickelson takes two-stroke lead halfway through Wells Fargo Championship

Phil Mickelson spent the pre-tournament press conference bragging about his new driver, dubbed "Frankenwood" to the media.

On Friday, his putter did all the talking.

Mickelson made a 40-foot putt on No. 9 to highlight a 5-under 67 that put him in the lead by two strokes at 9-under for the tournament.

In all, Mickelson fired six birdies and a lone bogey on the day. He has a two-stroke lead over three players, including Americans George McNeill and Nick Watney.

Australia's Scott Gardiner had the day's best round, 5-under to join the two Americans in the second-place tie.

Former No. 1 Rory McIlroy fell to a tie for fifth after being in the lead on Thursday.

McIlory was down to 9-under after eight holes thanks to a trio of birdies, but hit bogeys on No. 10 and 18 to come back down to earth. He's one of five golfers at 6-under, joined there by Lee Westwood, who fired a 4-under on the day, hitting six birdies.

Gardiner had four straight birdies between holes No. 6 and 9.

Last year's champion, American Rickie Fowler, had his second straight even par round, dropping him to a tie for 47th.

04 May, 2013 Saturday

Mickelson, Watney take their lumps, but still lead at Wells Fargo
It was an ugly sort of day at the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship Saturday in North Carolina, but what was rough for the players could turn beautiful for the fans on Sunday ... assuming the weather holds.

Americans Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney finished tied for the lead after 54 holes, even though Mickelson shot a 1-over 73 and Watney a 1-under 71, hardly championship scores.Mickelson's round bordered on the comical as he started the day on top of his game, 2-under through 10 holes.

Things got ugly from there as he launched a ball out of bounds on the 15th hole, then hit a spectator in the head - a combination of weirdness that saw him double bogey No. 15 and bogey No. 16, finishing 3-over on the last six holes.

The erratic play gave Watney the chance to seize control of the leaderboard late, but the 32-year-old Californian shanked with a six-iron on the par-3 No. 17 and wound up with a double bogey.

One shot behind the leaders is George McNeill, followed by multiple players within three shots, including former No. 1 Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy, who turned 24 on Saturday, might have run away with the lead if his putter hadn't failed him repeatedly. The Irishman missed a staggering seven putts from five feet or closer to finish 1-over on the day.

05 May , 2013 Sunday

Familiar names come up empty as tour newcomer takes Quail Hollow title
When one of the best players of this generation fell apart late in the day on Sunday, rookie Derek Ernst was there to take advantage of it.

Ernst, the tour rookie who won't turn 23 for another 10 days, defeated the UK's David Lynn on the first hole of their playoff to cash a $1.2 million championship check and qualify not only for this week's Players Championship, but also the 2014 Masters.

Fantastically, Ernst wasn't even in the field until recently, serving as the fourth alternate. The last time he won a tournament, he was a senior at UNLV playing in the field at Arizona State University.

Ernst hit the turn 1-over on Sunday, entering the day at 6-under for the tournament, two shots back of the co-leaders. He came alive down the stretch, with birdies on No. 11, 15 and critically 18 to finish 2-under for the day.

The 39-year-old Lynn was also 6-under entering Sunday, and also struggled early on, hitting three bogeys on the front nine, only to put birdies together on 14, 17 and 18 to forge a tie with Ernst.

At 8-under after 54 holes, Mickelson stayed the course and dropped to 9-under with a birdie on 14. But bogeys came on 16 and 17. He still had a chance to forge a three-way tie for the playoff on 18 with a birdie, but missed a 15-foot putt to finish third.

Lee Westwood and Robert Karlsson tied for fourth at 6-under. American Kyle Stanley fired a 4-under 68, tying for the best round of the day to finish in a four-way tie for sixth.

Former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, the tournament co-leader after Day One, was 1-over for the second straight day to finish tied for 10th at 4-under.

McIlroy, within three strokes of the lead when Day Four began, got off to a sizzling start, knocking three birdies in the span of four holes to close with a stroke of the lead, but collapsed after the turn, with a double bogey on 12 and a bogey on 13 to lose all the ground he had gained in the front nine.

After sharing the lead with Mickelson through three rounds, Nick Watney fell apart with a 4-over 76 to slide to 10th. Watney did not hit a single birdie on Sunday. Watney was
10-under through the first 47 holes of the tournament, then a miserable 6-over in the span of the final 25.

Tournament Recap

Phil Mickelson was the biggest name in the field; Derek Ernst was the fourth alternate.

Yet the rookie from UNLV upstaged the four-time Major winner, along with a fast-finishing David Lynn to earn his first tournament victory, shooting 8-under at the Wells Fargo Championship.

With the victory, Ernst earns a guaratneed two years on the tour, not bad for a guy who had previously missed five cuts in eight events in 2013.

A week earlier, Ernst finished 47th at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans to win $16,159, bringing his season total to $28,255.

On Sunday, he added $1,206,000 to that total, increasing his yearly winnings by a handy 4,269%.

After tying former No. 1 Rory McIlroy for the lead on Day 1 with a 5-under 67, Ernst was just 3-under for the rest of the tournament, but with soggy conditions, missed opportunities by his contemporaries and by handling the treacherous "Green Mile" as well as anyone on the course, Ernst emerged victorious.

The Quail Hollow Club is infamous for its lengthy, difficult stretch of holes 16-18, but Ernst was 2-under on the trio of holes over the course of the tournament. By comparison, Mickelson was 3-over on those same three holes over the four-day event.

Lynn, who hauled in $723,600 for his troubles, waited until the very end to make his move. The UK native never shot better than 4-under in a round, and was at 6-under after Day Three, then stumbled with three bogeys on the front nine Sunday to fall five strokes off the lead.

He made his move down the stretch, with birdies on 14, 17 and 18 to forge the playoff, but missed his par putt on the first hole to give the title to Ernst.

It was just the second top 10 finish this year for Mickelson, who was coming off a disappointing 9-over at the Masters in mid-April.

It was another disappointing effort for McIlroy as well. Although he secured his third Top 10 finish of 2013, he has yet to win a title this year.

Most of the major players will be on hand beginning May 9 for The PLAYERS Championship, being held at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

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