John Merrick got his first win on the PGA Tour Sunday afternoon at the Northern Trust Open on the second playoff hole with Charlie Beljan, who won the 2012 season finale at Disney. The 30 year old Merrick hit a phenomenal shot from the right rough on the first playoff hole, with Beljan sitting in the middle of the fairway to escape with par and won it on the second hole at the feared 10th hole.
It was fitting that the drivable par four 10th hole at the Riveria Country Club would be the place where the tournament would provide a winner. Along with the 13th hole, number ten had been the swing hole all week. Charlie Beljan took driver and pulled his shot to the far left. With all of the course knowledge from playing his collegiate golf at the historic layout, Merrick placed his tee shot in middle of the fairway. He hit his second shot to the narrow sliver sliver of green and was able to hold at thirteen feet. He was made par for the win.
Merrick shot a final round -2 under par 69 in a tournament that was struggling to find someone who wanted to win. He picked up two birdies to start the back nine and took the sole lead for a while. Bogey at the 13th hole dropped him back into a tie with thee other golfers. Beljan needed birdie at the 18th hole to make the playoff, and after he sunk the putt, gave the Tiger Woods fist pump, knuckle bumping fans and caddies all the way to the scoring tent.
Fredrick Jaconson made birdie from an impossible position on the par three 16th hole to pull himself into the playoff picture, and gave it away with a bogey at 18. Hunter Mahan, Charl Schwartzel, and Webb Simpson all had a piece of the lead on the back nine, but all stumbled down the stretch. It didn’t appear for a while that anyone wanted to win this event on this day. 54 hole leader, and defending champion, Bill Haas began the day with a three shot lead that disappeared somewhere between the seventh hole, and 13th hole. Haas ended up tied for third place with Jacobson, and Schwartzel.
John Merrick, who is from Long Beach, and played his collegiate golf locally at UCLA, looked nervous after he made the turn. He made birdies at the 10th, and 11th holes, and shook off the demons. Even after he made bogey at the very difficult 13th hole, made pars, and seemed to gain confidence. The three hole stretch from 13 to 15 at Riveria is very difficult, and getting through it at only one over par was key. The birdies at the turn gave him a little wriggle room to spend the bogey at 13.
By the time the youngster that turned pro in 2004 hit his second shot at the first playoff hole from the right rough, he had shaken off all the demons, and was all business. Given the difficulty of the golf course on this day, and the strength of the field, this was a quality win for Merrick, and should earn him a visit to Augusta in April.
Merrick missed the cut at both the Humana Challenge, and Farmer Insurance. He finished T 57 at Phoenix, and T 16 at Pebble Beach last week. His best finish in 2012 was a second place at Memphis. The win at Riveria moved him into fourth place in FedEx Cup points where he was previously ranked 100th.
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