Merrick gets his first win at home
LOS ANGELES — John Merrick never allowed himself to think about winning at Riviera.
Not when he was a kid attending his local PGA Tour event. Not when he was at UCLA and could play the fabled course. And certainly not late Sunday afternoon in a playoff when he faced a daunting 3-iron shot under a row of eucalyptus trees, and his opponent was in the middle of the fairway with a wedge in his hand.
No wonder Merrick was at a loss for words when he won the Northern Trust Open.
“Yeah, you dream,” Merrick said, his eyes still glossy. “When you’re alone sometimes, you think about different scenarios of winning tournaments. It was fun. 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.”
Merrick hit the perfect shot under the trees on the 18th to escape with par, and he followed with another flawless shot to a skinny section of the 10th green on the second playoff hole to 18 feet. He made another par, and won when Charlie Beljan missed a 5-foot par putt.
It was the second straight year the Northern Trust Open was decided in a playoff on the 10th, a diabolical par 4 at 315 yards that requires skill and strategy, a hole where players are happy to walk off with par. Beljan made bogey twice on the 10th, once in a regulation and then when the tournament was on the line.
He went long and left both times, and in the playoff, his chip didn’t quite reach the green and he took three putts from 70 feet.
Beljan, famous for having an anxiety attack when he won at Disney late last year, holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, similar to the theatrics provided last year by Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, to close with a 4-under 67 and wind up in a playoff.
Merrick, who grew up in Long Beach, had a number of big breaks on the back nine. None was bigger than his second shot on the par-5 17th headed toward the trees, only to find that he had just enough of a gap to go for the green and make par. He had a 69 and finished on 11-under 273.
ACE Group Classic
NAPLES, Fla. — Bernhard Langer shot a final-round 72 and won his second ACE Group Classic title in three years by one stroke on Sunday.
Langer two-putted from 50 feet on the 18th for par to finish at 12-under 204, ahead of Jay Don Blake at TwinEagles Club’s Talon Course.
Langer, who won this tournament in 2011 and was runner-up last year, survived three bogeys and a double bogey. It was his 17th victory on the Champions Tour, and the seventh year he has won at least one tournament.
Blake, who had four birdies on the front nine, took the lead briefly with a birdie on the par-5 13th to get to 12 under. But Langer also birdied the hole, and added another on No. 14 to take the lead again.
Blake missed a 3-footer for par on No. 16, and Langer bogeyed No. 15, keeping Langer a stroke ahead. Blake’s 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th looked like it had a chance until the last few feet, when it turned and grazed the edge of the cup.
CANBERRA, Australia — South Korea’s Jiyai Shin won the Australian Women’s Golf Open by two shots Sunday, 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.