LOS ANGELES – John Merrick was a young face in the crowd at Riviera for so many years, dreaming of one day playing the fabled course on the PGA Tour.
On Sunday, he did better than that. He won on it.
Merrick hit two clutch shots that led to two pars in a sudden-death playoff and won the Northern Trust Open on Sunday when Charlie Beljan missed a 5-foot par putt on the second extra hole.
Merrick, who closed with a 2-under 69, became only the ninth player make this tournament his first PGA Tour victory. It could not have come at a better place. Merrick grew up in Long Beach, attended this event as a kid and went to school down the street at UCLA.
I cant put this into words, he said off the 10th green, his eyes welling with tears. Growing up as a kid, coming out here, I just wanted to play this tournament.
It was a tough finish for Beljan. He holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to close with a 4-under 67 and wind up in a playoff.
He had to make a tough 6-foot putt for par on No. 18 on the first playoff hole. Going to the par-4 10th, 315 yards of sheer nerves, Beljan drove long and left, and his chip didnt reach the green. He putted his third shot just above the hole, and watched it slide by on the left for a bogey.
Beljan also made bogey on the 10th hole in regulation.
The key for Merrick might have been on the par-5 17th in regulation, when he pulled his second shot from a bunker toward the eucalyptus trees, only to find that he had just enough of a gap to go at the green and escape with par.
Merrick, who finished on 11-under 273, moved to No. 4 in the FedEx Cup and is virtually assured of qualifying for his first World Golf Championship next month at Doral.
LPGA: In Canberra, Australia, South Koreas Jiyai Shin won the Australian Womens Golf Open by two shots, finishing with a 1-under 72 to beat world No. 1 Yani Tseng after being tied for the overnight lead with teenage star Lydia Ko.
Shin mixed three birdies with two bogeys in a final round battle with Ko and Tseng of Taiwan to win her 37th professional tournament. Shin finished at 18-under 274, two strokes ahead of Tseng and four ahead of Ko.
CHAMPIONS: In Naples, Fla., Bernhard Langer shot a final-round 72 and won his second ACE Group Classic title in three years by one stroke.
Langer two-putted from 50 feet on the 18th for par to finish at 12-under 204, ahead of Jay Don Blake.
EUROPEAN: At East London, South Africa, South African Darren Fichardt shot a 1-under 71 for a 272 total to win the Africa Open by two shots over Gregory Bourdy and Jaco Van Zyl.