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What's In The Winner's Golf Bag : John Merrick Winner At The Northern Trust Open 2013 - Great Golf Deals.com Blog


PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — From the tee box, the 10th hole at Riviera Country Club looks like another vanilla par 4 on the PGA Tour, a 315-yard test that is no match for today’s generation of swashbuckling players.

John Merrick after his victory in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club. He said, "To get a win in my hometown, it’s amazing, it’s a dream come true."

Bill Haas, the third-round leader at Riviera Country Club, wound up missing a playoff by one shot and tying for third. The hole, and the player who tamed it to win the Northern Trust Open, are proof that looks can be deceiving. Before Sunday, John Merrick might have been hard for the average golf fan to pick out in a threesome waiting to tee off.


Merrick, 30, has pleasant looks and a pleasant demeanor, and in his first six years until this year on the tour, his results were perfectly pleasant: 13 top-10 finishes in 164 starts for earnings of $5.8 million. In the final round of the Northern Trust Open, it became obvious that Merrick’s boy-next-door looks and manners hide a sniper’s heart. He remained eerily calm down the stretch, playing the final six holes of his fourth round in one over par despite missing four of the last five fairways. He got up and down from off the green on 18 to seal a closing two-under 69 for an 11-under 273 and a spot in the playoff against Charlie Beljan, who posted a 67.

And after scrambling for a par on the first playoff hole, where he missed another fairway, Merrick secured his first tour title by treating No. 10 as a hole not to be taken lightly. He essentially bowed to the hole by hitting a 3-iron off the tee, a full wedge to 18 feet and two-putting for a routine par.

Beljan, a long hitter playing this tournament for the first time, took his driver and sent his ball into the rough long and left of the green. His pitch landed short of the green and he putted to 4 feet and failed to make his par, a rare miss on a day when his putter was as hot as a fire poker.

“As a kid, you dream about playing the tournament one day,” Merrick said, “but to win it, you know, I never factored in winning.”

Merrick, a Long Beach, Calif., native who attended U.C.L.A., became the first Los Angeles County native to win the tournament since the event began in 1926. While at U.C.L.A., a 15-minute drive from Riviera on a good traffic day, he played dozens of rounds at the course, enough to have picked up some of the subtleties that escaped Beljan, who weathered a panic attack on his way to winning at Walt Disney World last year as a rookie.

The key to Merrick’s success was his play on the three par 5s, where he was minus 11 for the week, and his scrambling down the stretch.

“I hit some really bad shots out there on the back nine and just kind of hung in there and scrambled and just manufactured something, and it worked out,” Merrick said.
The 10th hole was where Merrick’s local knowledge made all the difference. Describing it as “one of the great par 4s that we play,” he said: “When you look at it from the tee, it looks like the most benign hole. You don’t see all the slopes up on the left and everything. It’s so hard to hit a wood and be in great position there.”

Tell Beljan about it. “I’ve laid up, I’ve made birdie, and I’ve laid up and I’ve made bogey,” Beljan said, adding: “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking it, but it’s just a tough hole to have a playoff on. We might as well go and put a windmill out there and hit some putts.”

The loss was doubly disappointing for Beljan, whose victory last year did not earn him a spot in the Masters. He started this season with the intention of playing his way into the field at Augusta National.
“You know, the Masters was running through my mind, for sure,” Beljan said. “That’s the one golf tournament I want to play in the most. But unfortunately, it didn’t pan out.”

Finishing in a tie for third with the 54-hole leader, Bill Haas (73), and Charl Schwartzel (70) was Fredrik Jacobson, who rebounded nicely from a 72 on Saturday that included a whiff. He hit the first 12 greens on his way to a 69 but left with a bitter taste after missing a short putt on No. 18 that would have put him in the playoff.

“It’s obviously a pressure putt with a lot on the line,” Jacobson said. “It wasn’t very good, but it is what it is.”
Riviera was what it was Sunday: the perfect stage for Merrick’s curtain call at a tournament that he attended for the first time as a fan in 2001, the year Robert Allenby won in a playoff.

“To get a win in my hometown, it’s amazing, it’s a dream come true,” Merrick said.

WHAT'S IN JOHN'S WINNING BAG?

DRIVER: Titleist 913 D2 Driver (8.5°) with a with Aldila NV 75 X-flex shaft
FAIRWAY WOOD: Titleist 913F Fairway (13.5°) with Aldila NV 85 X-flex shaft
HYBRID: Titleist 913H (19°) with Aldila NV 105 X-flex shaft
IRONS: Titleist 712 MB Forged Irons (3-PW) True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
WEDGES: Titleist Vokey SM4 (54°, 60°) with a True Temper X100 shafts;
PUTTER: Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport SS Tour
BALL: Titleist Pro V1x 2013

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