John Merrick gets first PGA Tour win at Riviera


John Merrick Courtesy:

John Merrick defeated Charlie Beljan in the second playoff hole at Riviera to take the 2013 Northern Trust Open. It’s the first PGA Tour victory for Merrick, the Long Beach native who used to play Riviera on a regular basis, and grants him his first berth in the Masters since 2009.
What happened
As usual at Riviera, it didn’t come down to what we expected when the day began. The “name” players, such as Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson, ended up fading away, making room for Merrick and Beljan. Haas entered Sunday’s final round with a three shot lead and looked to be in control through the first six holes, as he made it through in 1-under par. Bogeys would follow on five of the next seven holes, and his two late birdies weren’t enough to salvage the round for the defending champion. Fredrik Jacobson, who got into the WGC-Accenture Match Play next week when Brandt Snedeker pulled out a few days ago, looked solid for most of the day before pulling his tee ball left on the 18th and proceeded to miss a short four footer for par that would have got him into the playoff.
On the opening playoff hole, both men headed back up to the 18th tee. Merrick drove his tee ball right into the rough, making it nearly impossible to hit the green in two, but his approach under the trees was miraculous, landing just behind the green. Beljan found the fairway off of the tee, but pulled his pitching wedge from 160 yards, landing just on the edge of the kikuyu rough. Merrick’s chip was decidedly better than Beljan’s, but both ended up making par to extend the playoff to the difficult par-4 10th.
Once on the 10th, Merrick played it safe with an iron and wedged his approach to about 20 feet. Beljan, after seeing Merrick lay up, took out the driver and hit it way left and couldn’t get his pitch to land on the green. Merrick made his two putt, while Beljan couldn’t get his to drop, giving Merrick the victory.
Riviera remains one of the marquee stops on the PGA Tour, but never seems to get the credit that other courses seem to get, probably because it’s been so long since the course hosted a major championship. It really has some of the best holes in golf, especially the par-3 4th and the drivable par-4 10th. It usually attracts the big names, and it did again this week. It’s still a tough enough test to host a major, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see another major being brought to Riviera in the future. If Merion can host the U.S. Open this year, surely Riviera can grab a major.
GIFs of the tournament
Both GIFs below come from Saturday’s third round. First, Webb Simpson takes an unusual route to the hole on the par-3 6th green. Even though it doesn’t go in, it’s a pretty impressive putt.



Secondly, Luke Donald put himself in trouble on the 13th off of the tee, but he managed to get himself out of it pretty nicely. I’d try and explan how difficult this shot is, but after the round, Donald actually said that he thought it might be the best shot of his career. That pretty much sums it up I’d say.



Other notes

  • Tiger Woods played a round today with United States President Barack Obama and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane. Of course, Golf Channel made it out to be an event of national importance, as they do with pretty much every one of Woods’ moves. Rich people played golf when they had some free time. It’s not a news story, stop making it out to be something of value.
  • Another tough week for Dustin Johnson, who missed the cut for the second week in a row, and tweeted this before his second round:

I know that he’s had a bit of a tough run since winning the opening event of the year, but someone might want to tell Johnson to be a little more careful with what he tweets. When most of the people who follow you on Twitter don’t play golf for a living, or have access to the things that you have based on your admittedly deserved success, they don’t usually take too kindly to you complaining about your lot in life.

  • I didn’t write anything about it this morning because I didn’t get a chance to watch any of the event, but Darren Fichardt managed to capture the Africa Open today by two shots over Gregory Bourdy and Jaco Van Zyl.
  • Even though they’d probably tell you otherwise, nice showing from Adam Scott and Luke Donald in their first events of the year, finishing at -6 and -4 respectively. Can’t say the same for Graeme McDowell, who missed the cut by one stroke.
  • On the other end of things, very disappointing for both Matt Kuchar and Sergio Garcia who looked to be on-point after the first round. Kuchar opened with a 64 to lead the event, with Garcia just one behind after a 65. Garcia ended up tied for 13th, while Kuchar fell way down the board, with rounds of 73-74-73 to end up tied for 38th.
  • Merrick has one of the nicest looking swings on the planet, meanwhile Jacobson looks like he has no business on the course at times. My favourite story about Jacobson is how the European Tour players always say that he’s the best 10-handicapper in the game.
  • Even though he pissed all over himself on 18, I wouldn’t want to play Jacobson next week at the Match Play. He’s going to get one of the top players in the world, but they haven’t played in weeks. Could be a good upset pick, especially considering his good run of form.
  • Tough way to end for Charl Schwartzel, who caught some bad breaks all week, and just missed birdie putts on both 16 and 17. Ended up just one shot back, and has finished inside the top-5 in each of his last six starts worldwide.
  • Want to know how difficult a course really is? Look at the players who miss the cut, and that’s a pretty good indicator. This week at Riviera: McDowell, Johnson, Charles Howell, Nicolas Colsaerts, Tim Clark, Zach Johnson, Brendon de Jonge, Geoff Ogilvy, Padraig Harrington, Bubba Watson, Bo Van Pelt and Bud Cauley.

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