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John Merrick laughs with the trophy after his play-off win over Charlie Beljan on the second play-off hole during the final round of the Northern Trust Open at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California, yesterday.
LOS ANGELES: Southern California native John Merrick’s youthful dreams came true Sunday as he captured his first US PGA Tour title with a playoff triumph over Charlie Beljan at Riviera Country Club.
Merrick led by as many as two on the back nine in regulation and shared the lead for much of the day as a tightly bunched leaderboard made for a tense finish.
Now in his seventh season as a US PGA Tour member, he finally lifted the Northern Trust Open title, and a $1.188m first prize, with a par at the second hole of sudden death -- Riviera’s demanding par-four 10th.
“Growing up here in LA, I just wanted to come to this tournament,” said Merrick, who still lives in nearby Long Beach where he grew up and attended the University of California at Los Angeles. “Now to win it, this is a dream come true.” Merrick was one of three players who started the day three shots off the lead held by Bill Haas and he had four birdies and two bogeys in a final-round 69 for 11-under 273.
“I’ve been in this position a couple of times,” Merrick said of chasing the overnight lead.
“My coach today just said be tough and patient and that’s what I tried to do.
“I hit some really bad shots out there on the back nine and just kind of hung in there. Unless you’re Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, they win all the time, it’s really had to win a golf tournament. I’m just going to cherish this. And, gosh, it’s so much fun.”
Beljan, who claimed his first tour title last November when he shrugged off a panic attack to win at the Disney World resort, drained an 18-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole to get to 273 and seize his place in the playoff. The American’s four-under par 67 matched the best score of the day.
After both parred the opening playoff hole -- the 480-yard par-four 18th where Merrick made a clutch six-footer -- they returned to 10. Merrick reached the green in two, while Beljan drove into the rough and hit his approach to the fringe 71 feet from the pin.
Merrick’s birdie attempt left him some two feet from the cup, and he tapped in for par. Beljan, who had putted up to five feet, then saw his par attempt slip past the cup.Sweden’s Fredrick Jacobson (69), Haas (73) and 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (70) finished the day one shot back on 274.
Merrick and Jacobson, playing together in the group behind Beljan, had arrived at the par-five 17th tied for the lead on 11-under, and Jacobson looked to have a good chance to move ahead when he stuck his third shot nine feet from the pin after Merrick had found a fairway bunker.AFP