UCLA Alumnus John Merrick Wins at Riviera
Feb. 17, 2013
UCLA alumnus John Merrick won the Northern Trust Open Sunday with a par on the second playoff hole at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.
Merrick, 30, fired a final round 69 (-2) to finish at 11-under par 273 to tie Charlie Beljan after 72 holes. He won his first event on the PGA Tour after 169 starts and took home the winner's purse of $1.188 million.
The steady Long Beach native made several tough pars down the stretch to remain in contention. At the 72nd hole, he two-putted from 35 feet across the green to remain at 11-under par while playing partner Frederick Jacobsen missed a short putt to fall out of the lead.
On the first playoff hole, Merrick pushed his tee shot on the 18th hole to the right of the fairway and was forced punch-fade his second shot, which ran through the green. Beljan had split the fairway, but left himself with a difficult third shot after his approach found the left collar of the green.
Merrick chipped to within three feet at the 18th and made his par; Beljan made a treacherous six-footer for his par.
The two players moved to the second playoff hole, the short, devilish 10th, a 315-yard par 4 with all sorts of strategies and trouble. Merrick, hitting first, found the fairway with an iron, but had 90 yards to the pin over a large, yawning bunker to a narrow green. Beljan hit driver past the green into the thick rough and had a shorter shot over a bunker with little green to work with.
Merrick hit first and found the green, 18 feet below the hole. Beljan was forced to hit to the safe part of the putting surface nearly 70 feet away. Playing first, he knocked his putt hole-high, nearly five feet from the pin. Merrick missed his birdie attempt, but made par. Beljan's par putt slid by on the low side and victory was Merrick's.
Merrick joins UCLA Hall of Famer Corey Pavin as the only other Bruin to win this Tour stop at Riviera. He also becomes the first Los Angeles County born player in the tournament's history to win this event. He will receive a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and qualifies for the 2013 Masters Tournament in April.
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