John Merrick wins Northern Trust Open in a playoff

John Merrick, a Long Beach Wilson High graduate and a Pac-10 champion at UCLA, collected his first victory on the PGA Tour by defeating Charlie Beljan on the second playoff hole in the Northern Trust Open on Sunday at Riviera Country Club.

Beljan, the 2002 U.S. Junior Amateur champion and a 2007 All-American at New Mexico, had a chance to extend the playoff to a third hole but he missed a five-foot par putt.


“I can’t put this into words,” an emotional Merrick said afterward. “Growing up as a kid, coming out here, I just wanted to play this tournament.”

Merrick, 30, had a final-round 69 to finish at 11 under par for the tournament.


Beljan, who earned his first PGA Tour title in November when he played through a panic attack in the second round and won the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at Lake Buena Vista, Fla., shot a 67 Sunday, making an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole to get to 11 under.

Merrick survived a shaky start on the first playoff hole -- the 480-yard No. 18 -- when he drove into the rough and sent his approach shot through the green into more rough. He then chipped to within two feet to save par.

At the 312-yard No. 10, the second playoff hole, Merrick laid up instead of trying to drive the green and put his approach shot 19 feet from the pin. Beljan, 28, drove into rough and hit his approach shot to the fringe of the green.

Merrick’s birdie putt went to within two feet of the cup and he tapped in for par. Beljan left his birdie putt five feet away and his par attempt slid past the top side of the cup.


Wire and Internet reports contributed to this story.


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