Toy Box: Merrick enters winner's circle

John Merrick hits his tee shot on the second hole during the final round of the Northern Trust Open.

Equipped with Titleist, Merrick enters winner’s circle

John Merrick captured his first PGA Tour title at the Northern Trust Open following a playoff duel with Charlie Beljan.

Merrick, a former UCLA standout who played Riviera often during his college days, relied exclusively on Titleist equipment: 913D2 driver (8.5 degree, with Aldila NV 75X shaft); 913F 3-wood (13.5 degree, with Aldila NV 85X shaft); 913H hybrid (19 degree, with Aldila NV 105X shaft); MB irons (3-PW, with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts); Vokey Design SM4 wedges (54 and 60 degree, with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts) and a Scotty Cameron Newport Tour putter. He also used a 2013 Pro V1x ball.

The Aldila NV has proved to be one of the enduring graphite shafts on the Tour, and Merrick is a longtime user of the NV in his driver, fairway wood and hybrid. The NV was introduced to the Tour more than 10 years ago, in fall 2002. Demand escalated, in particular, after Ben Curtis used the NV to win the 2003 Open Championship.

Lefty’s 3-wood search

Phil Mickelson, continuing his quest for the perfect 3-wood, played yet another new 3-wood at the Northern Trust. It was a Callaway X Hot Proto model (13 degree) with a relatively deep face. The shaft was a Mitsubishi Rayon Fubuki K 70X. Length was 43.25 inches.

Mickelson added two other new clubs: a Razr Fit Xtreme 5-wood (18 degree) and an Odyssey Versa No. 9 white/black/white putter.

TaylorMade on a roll at Riviera

In the official equipment counts conducted at the Northern Trust Open by the Darrell Survey, TaylorMade was No. 1 in four major categories: drivers, fairway woods, hybrids and irons. The company finished runner-up in the wedge and golf ball categories.

Banner weekend for new Titleist balls

In addition to Merrick, Darren Fichardt also played the 2013 Pro V1x to win the European Tour’s Africa Open. Jiyai Shin used the 2013 Pro V1 to win the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open on the LPGA. Titleist has won 14 events on the major professional tours in 2013.

The latest Pro V1 clearly is suiting Jimmy Walker, too. Using the 2013 edition, he topped the field in driving distance at Riviera with a 309.8-yard average. He leads the PGA Tour in birdies this season with 111, and he ranked 10th in the FedEx Cup standings. Titleist led the ball count at Riviera.

Fitting insight from Sang-moon Bae

Sang-moon Bae used a new Callaway Razr Fit Xtreme driver at the Northern Trust. The actual loft was 9.2 degree, and the weighting scheme included 1 gram in the toe and 14 grams in the heel. So much for the notion that touring pros invariably load up on toe weight. Bae wanted to turn the ball right-to-left, thus the heel weight.

On a launch monitor, Bae’s launch angle went from 11.5 degree down to 10.75 degree, while his spin rate dropped from roughly 2,900 rpm to 2,450 rpm. He averaged 295.1 yards for the week, up about 4 yards over his 2013 average.

Short shots: Ernie Els used a one-of-a-kind Odyssey Versa No. 7 belly putter at Riviera. Clubmakers at the Callaway tour van took a standard White Hot XG No. 7 putter head and applied a Versa white/black/white paint pattern. . . . Fredrik Jacobson, who was one missed 4-foot putt away from joining the Northern Trust playoff, had a bag full of Callaway gear. His arsenal: Razr Fit driver (7.5 degree), Big Bertha Diablo 3-wood (13 degree), Diablo Octane Tour 5-wood (18 degree), Diablo Forged irons (3-9 irons), X-Forged wedges (48, 52 and 58 degree) and Odyssey Versa No. 7 putter. He played a Hex Black Tour ball.

Jacobson put the Versa putter in his bag during the offseason. His No. 7 model has a black/white/black color scheme.

James Achenbach also contributed to this report

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