Southern California native John Merrick’s youthful dreams came true on Sunday as he captured his first 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 PGA Tour member, he lifted the Northern Trust Open title, and a US$1.188 million 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.
Beljan 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 67 matched the best score of the day.
After both parred the opening playoff hole — the 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.
Schwartzel missed a golden opportunity to join the group at 11-under when he failed to convert a six-foot birdie attempt at 17.
“I hit some good putts at 16, 17, 18,” Schwartzel said. “The greens were getting really bouncy and they were fast, so it was hard to really hit aggressive putts ... I came close.”