John Merrick of the USA came through a playoff against his countryman Charlie Beljan to win the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club in California.
Merrick looked likely to come out second best after he and Beljan had teed off the 18th for the first extra hole. Beljan had fired a superb drive well down the fairway, while Merrick’s way to the green was obscured by a row of eucalyptus trees.
But the former UCLA student conjured a superb shot, a low 3-iron under the trees that allowed him to save a par. Beljan failed to make birdie so they moved on to the devilish 10th hole where the tournament was decided.
It’s a mere 315 yards, but one of the toughest holes at Riviera where par is a great score. Merrick found the narrow part of the green in regulation while Beljan’s drive went long and left leaving an extremely difficult chip. He left it short and then three putted from some 70 feet for a five. Merrick got down in two and the title was his.
“When you’re alone sometimes, you think about different scenarios of winning tournaments,” he said. “We would always play here at UCLA and have great games out here. To be able to play the tournament was a dream of mine. But to win? I can’t describe it. It’s so much fun.”
There were a number of players in contention through the final round and many will be kicking themselves for missed opportunities.
Freddie Jacobson of Sweden missed a short put on the 18th that would have earned him a place in the playoff. Hunter Mahan took a share of the lead on the 14th, but then dropped four shots over his last four holes. Charl Schwartzel was one shot back with three to play. He missed a short birdie putt on the 16th then three-putted the 17th.
Bill Haas had a disappointing final round. Three shots ahead of Merrick at the start of the round, he made five bogeys in seven holes around the turn and his challenge was over.
“You don’t get this many opportunities,” Haas said. “A three-shot lead at one of the best tournaments of the year is a great opportunity that I squandered.”
Northern Trust Open
Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, California
Feb 14 – 17, purse $6,600,000 par 71
1 John Merrick (USA) 68 66 70 69 273 $1,188,000
2 Charlie Beljan (USA) 67 71 68 67 273 $712,800
T3 Bill Haas (USA) 70 67 64 73 274 $343,200
T3 Fredrik Jacobson (Swe) 68 65 72 69 274 $343,200
T3 Charl Schwartzel (RSA) 69 67 68 70 274 $343,200
T6 Webb Simpson (USA) 70 66 68 71 275 $229,350
T6 Josh Teater (USA) 70 68 68 69 275 $229,350
T8 Sang-Moon Bae (Kor) 68 65 76 67 276 $198,000
T8 Hunter Mahan (USA) 70 69 68 69 276 $198,000
Note: Player score in bold signifies Titleist ball usage
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