Monday, February 18

John Merrick: 'Dream Come True'

John Merrick
LONG BEACH RESIDENT AND UCLA GOLF product John Merrick won his first PGA Tour event close to home on a golf course that he used to play in college. Merrick outlasted Charlie Beljan in a two-hole sudden-death playoff to capture the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club.

Merrick was emotional, happy and relieved to get that first victory in front of a hometown crowd. The slender, 30-year-old tour player talked about how he held it together late on Sunday.

" ... I was just trying to do one shot at a time," Merrick said. "My caddie and I were talking, my heart was racing out there for sure, I was nervous. I was just trying to grind it out and be tough and do the best that I could and ... whatever happened, just move forward and try your best.

"To win a tournament in front of family and friends and in your hometown with people shouting out 'Bruins' and 'Long Beach,' to win a tournament in front of them, on the PGA Tour with this field and all the past champions and this golf course .... I can't even describe it. It's a dream come true."

Merrick's first PGA Tour win was five years in the making. He's had three top tens in majors, his best finishes a T6 at both the 2008 U.S. Open (Torrey Pines) and 2009 Masters.

"You can't force it," Merrick said. "You obviously want to win, but I think it just happens. You play well and you add them up at the end and sometimes you win and sometimes you don't. I try to just kind of take the pressure off myself and play. But for my career ... it has not sunk in yet. I know that I'm going to get in the Masters and Maui. It's just icing on the cake. I can't wait."

Runner-up Beljan was not a big fan of Riviera's 10th hole, a short par 4 with a tiny, diabolical putting surface. That's where the rangy 28-year-old missed a tricky four footer that would have extended the playoff.

"I think you could play here 10,000 times and still not know how to play No. 10," Beljan said.

"I just find it tough that we go to No. 10 .... I'm not knocking it, but it's just a tough hole to have a playoff on. We might as well go and put a windmill out there and hit some putts."

I'm guessing Beljan would have felt much better about the 10th had things gone differently for him. In fact, he probably would have felt like the winner, Merrick, who laughed when told by a reporter about Beljan's windmill comment.

2 comments :

Brian Kuehn said...

I was disappointed in Charlie Beljan's comments. Be a gracious runner-up and don't start complaining about the 10th hole. He played it 4 times as part of the normal tournament (with 2 birdies) and Merrick had to play the same hole in the same situation. He would have been better served to have congratulated John Merrick and say he wished he had played #10 better. Then silently vow to skip the Northern Trust next year if #10 is such a problem.

The Armchair Golfer said...

I agree.