5 Things: Merrick pulls off dramatic Riviera win
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
With Hollywood in the backdrop, John Merrick wrote a story on Sunday that was almost too good to be true for the Southern California native.
Merick, a former UCLA standout who played Riviera plenty of times in college, held off Charlie Beljan on the second playoff hole to win the Northern Trust Open.
It is Merrick's first career PGA Tour title. Here are 5 Things to take away from another week at historic Riviera:
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1. MASTERFUL MERRICK: John Merrick made the difficult choice - twice - and it paid off in the form of an invitation to the Masters in April.
Playing the par-4 10th in regulation, Merrick was the only member of his group to lay up, but picked up a birdie with a nice putt from just off the green.
He chose to lay up again in the playoff, using a wedge to hit his second shot within 15 feet of the hole. He earned his first Tour title two putts later.
Merrick made his move on Sunday at Nos. 10 and 11, tying Bill Haas for the lead with a birdie at the 10th and then taking the outright with another one at the 11th.
Merrick's 11-under total included two eagles (both in the third round), 17 birdies and 10 bogeys. He birdied (or eagled) the par-5 11th hole each day.
"Growing up as a kid I went to a lot of these tournaments and played a lot of rounds at UCLA and yeah, to get a win in my hometown, it's amazing," said Merrick. "It is a dream come true. Gosh, I can't believe‑‑ it has not sunk in yet for sure."
After missing his first two cuts of the season, Merrick finished T-57 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and T-16 at Pebble Beach. He moves to No. 4 in the FedEx Cup standings with the victory.
Merrick's Northern Trust Open victory earned him his third Masters appearance. He tied for sixth in his debut in 2009, then missed the cut the following year.
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2. BELJAN WAFFLES: It's no secret that Charlie Beljan wears his emotions on his sleeve.
His aggressive nature might have cost him his second career PGA Tour title. After saving par on the first playoff hole, Beljan did not play it safe on the par-4 10th hole, choosing to hit driver at the drivable par 4. He even got a cheer from the crowd after he seemed to waffle on whether to play it safe.
He overcooked his tee ball to the left and was left to scramble to try and save par. His second shot also failed to reach the green, and Beljan missed a 5-foot par putt that would have extended the playoff.
"I don't really have anything good to say about the 10th hole. I think it's a funky golf hole. Obviously that's what Riviera, they are kind of known for the 10th hole. It is a great, short par-4," said Beljan.
"The green just needs to be a little more receptive. I'm glad that hole is not at TPC Scottsdale around the stadium where you see people making a big‑time fool of themselves."
Beljan tied for the best round of the day with a 4-under 67 - his second 67 of the tournament.
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3. MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: At first glance, Charl Schwartzel's final-round scorecard isn't all that exciting: a bogey (on No. 2) and two birdies (Nos. 5 and 10). The three birdies he left on the course is what likely will eat away at the 2011 Masters champion.
Schwartzel attacked the par-3 16th despite a tough pin placement on the far right, leaving himself a 6-foot birdie attempt. He missed that low and went to the par-5 17th one shot back.
After a long drive on the 17th, Schwartzel put an iron to just in front of the green and his eagle attempt settled about 5 feet behind the hole. He couldn't convert on that short putt and headed to the 18th still in need of that elusive birdie.
Again, another big drive at No. 18 put him in great position. He hit his second shot to about 18 feet right of the hole, but left his birdie putt wide right and had to settle for a share of third place in his first appearance at Riviera.
"I hit some good putts, at 16, 17, 18, the greens was getting really bouncy and they were fast, so it was hard to really hit aggressive putts," said Schwartzel. "But I suppose everyone played on them and came up a shot shy."
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4. OH, BILLY! Bill Haas was riding a 40-hole bogey-free streak heading into Sunday's final round, but that ended at the par-4 second hole and he'd add five more bogeys in the middle of his round to fall out of contention. He birdied Nos. 17 and 18 to finish at 10 under, but fired a 2-over 73 in defense of his NTO title.
Haas led by three shots after a birdie at No. 3, but bogeys at Nos. 7 and 8 cut that to one at the turn. Merrick tied Haas for the lead with a birdie at the par-4 10th and never relinquished it.
Haas had three bogeys - all in the first round - heading into the final 18 holes.
"It's easy to second guess every decision I made to make bogey on hindsight. If I pull the shots off, then they are great," said Haas. "But maybe the driver at 8 was unnecessary, maybe even driver at 10 was unnecessary.
Made a terrible shot at 11, those three shots stick out in my head as, if I could do those 3‑over again, maybe it turns out something different."
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Sang-Moon Bae, who held a share of the 36-hole lead, and Greg Chalmers tied Beljan for round of the day. Both fired 4-under 67. . . . Luke Donald took a triple-bogey 7 at the par-4 12th hole to drop out of contention in his PGA Tour season debut. Donald finished T-16, dropping 11 places with a final-round, 4-over 75 . . . The field was a cumulative 61 over on Sunday.