Are you curious what life is like for a PGA TOUR winner? Here's your chance to find out.
Northern Trust Open champ John Merrick is joining us for a live video chat at 10:30 AM ET to answer fan questions and give a preview of this week's Honda Classic. You can post your questions for John in the comments below or on Twitter using #PGATOURchat.
The video chat can be streamed live here on the TOUR Report or on the PGA TOUR's Google+ page.
By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, PGA TOUR Academy
One of the things I like about John Merrick’s golf swing is how he uses the clubface. Merrick keeps it very square during the backswing, leading to very little clubface rotation throughout his swing.
Clubface angle can be measured when the shaft is halfway back during the backswing and parallel to the ground. At this point, a square clubface is when the toe is slightly down so the angle of the clubface (grooves) is not pointing straight up but rather down at a slight angle.
This clubface angle is an important one because it sets the stage on how Merrick and so many other PGA TOUR players deliver the clubface through impact. Players who set the clubface square during the backswing need less clubface rotation coming down through impact in order to square the face. These players can often times be more instinctive on the downswing because of the lack of concern to square the clubface.
In order to achieve a square clubface going back, here are two tips:
1) Stronger grip: Make sure your hands are on the grip where the “V” you form between the thumb and first finger points towards the right ear/shoulder. The more you move your hands to the right on the grip (for a right-handed golfer), the less likely you will be to open the clubface during the backswing. Conversely, the more you move your hands to the left on the grip, the less likely you will be to close the club face during the backswing. The grip for you is one that achieves a square clubface, which for most amateurs needs to be a little stronger.
2) Left-hand knuckle count: Once the shaft reaches parallel to the ground during the backswing make sure you can see roughly the same knuckle count on the lead hand as you did at address. If you can see two knuckles at address on the lead hand, then you should see these same two knuckles at this half-way checkpoint during the backswing. This will teach you the right amount of rotation during the backswing in order to achieve a square clubface, just like John Merrick.
Travis Fulton is the Director of Instruction at the TOUR Academies at TPC Sawgrass and the World Golf Village. For more information on the TOUR Academy, click here.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- John Merrick grew up in Long Beach about 45 minutes away from Riviera Country Club. As the crow flies, not as the car drives in this soCal megalopolis, of course.
He attended UCLA, just across the 405 freeway, and went to the Northern Trust Open as a kid where he dreamed of playing the PGA TOUR. He got to the big leagues seven years ago but there was one thing missing on his resume.
And on Sunday, as fate would have it, Merrick took care of that omission as he won his first PGA TOUR event in a playoff with Charlie Beljan with a par on the second extra hole.
"To get a win in my hometown, it's amazing," Merrick said. "It is a dream come true. ... It has not sunk in yet for sure."
The win came in Merrick's 169th start on the PGA TOUR and moved him to fourth in the FedExCup. Merrick has never missed the Playoffs with his best finish 40th in 2008.
Merrick, who started the final round three strokes behind Bill Haas, held at least a share of the lead throughout most of the pressure-packed back nine. But Beljan was the first to post 11 under when he rolled in an 18-footer for birdie and a 67 at the 72nd hole.
Merrick was playing in the penultimate group with Fredrik Jacobson, and both came to Rivieria's 18th at 11 under as Beljan was signing his scorecard. Jacobson missed a 4-footer for par there but Merrick made his from 3 to get into what was the second straight playoff at the Northern Trust Open.
Neither Beljan nor Merrick found the green the second time the two played the 18th hole on Sunday. Merrick chipped to tap-in distance while Beljan had to convert from 6 feet to extend the playoff.
The 10th hole is a driveable par 4 but Merrick chose to lay up with a 3-iron for the second time on Sunday. He had 90 yards and chipped to 18 feet while Beljan's drive strayed well left in the rough.
Beljan's second shot found the collar of the green and he putted from 71 feet to 5. Merrick's birdie attempt came up 21 inches shy and he took no chances, tapping in for par. When Beljan's putt passed the cup, Merrick was a PGA TOUR champion and he wrapped his caddy in a bear hug.
For Beljan, who played through a panic attack to win his first PGA TOUR event in last year's season-ender, Sunday's runner-up finish snapped a string of four missed cuts. He had never played at Riviera before but said he already had a spot for his RV booked for 2014.
"Life's good. Life is good," Beljan said. "... coming down the back nine, I didn't strike the ball that well, but God, I made every clutch putt that you would ever ask to make.
"And then to make that putt on 18 and hear the roar, was really special. Obviously not the way I wanted to end it, but you know what, you win some, you lose some, and that's how it goes."
John Merrick captured his first PGA TOUR victory at the Northern Trust Open after making a par on the second playoff hole to defeat Charlie Beljan on Sunday in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
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PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- John Merrick is looking to author a Cinderella story at the Northern Trust Open.
Merrick, who was raised and still lives in Long Beach and graduated from UCLA, has a two-stroke lead with seven holes remaining in his hometown event.
Merrick, who is looking for his first victory in seven years as a PGA TOUR member, just birdied the 10th and 11th holes to slip past Hunter Mahan. He made a 14-foot birdie putt at the 10th hole and got up-and-down from the greenside bunker at No. 11 to move to 12 under.
Minutes after Merrick birdied the 11th, Mahan three-putted the 12th from 29 feet, missing a 7-footer to save par. So Mahan is now tied for second with Fredrik Jacobson, Bill Haas, Webb Simpson and Charl Schwartzel at 10 under.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- John Merrick grew up about 40 minutes away from Riviera Country Club. He still lives in Long Beach, too, but he knows enough about the traffic on the 405 to ditch the commute and stay in Santa Monica this week during the Northern Trust Open.
Not to mention. Merrick attended UCLA, which is about 15 minutes from the fabled course that once boasted the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Peter Falk and Katherine Hepburn among its star-studded roster of members. So could there be any other place more apropos for him to pick up his first PGA TOUR victory in his seventh year as a member?
Merrick has certainly put himself in prime position, too, after Saturday's 70 left him tied for second at 9 under, three strokes behind Bill Haas.
"I saw some UCLA cheerleaders out there, pretty psyched," Merrick said. "Got a lot of support out there from fans and friends and family coming up from Long Beach. So it was a good time."
Merrick opened the third round with a bang, too -- making a 6-foot eagle putt at the first hole. He gave those shots back, though, with bogeys on the next two holes and made the turn 1 over for the day after another on No. 8.
A second eagle, this time courtesy of a 46-foot putt, at the 11th hole got Merrick back into red numbers. He got up and down from the greenside bunker at the 17th hole, the final par 5, to briefly get within two shots of Haas before giving it back when he missed the 18th green and couldn't save par.
"I'll take it," Merrick said. "I played the par 5s great. You're going to have to make a lot of putts out here because you're not going to hit every green. You know you're going to be chipping and you have to make those putts inside ten feet. But I was generally happy with the day."
Merrick, who hit eight fairways and 10 greens in regulation on Saturday, liked the way he hung in as the course toughened up. He knows he'll have to be aggressive to catch Haas but he'll be cautious at the same time.
"You really need to pick your spots here, definitely," Merrick said. "You can't shoot at every flag, and that's kind of one of those things around here, it just baits you into being more aggressive than you need and you need to putt well obviously."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- John Merrick calls it the "eternal golfer's dilemma." The former UCLA standout plays in a tournament, and the Northern Trust Open is his fifth straight, and then Merrick picks apart his performance in the quest to improve.
"I've just been trying to regroup each tournament and try to figure out what's gone wrong," Merrick explained. "... It's a work in progress all the time. Just trying to minimize the mistakes and put up a good number each day."
So far, so good, too. After missed cuts the first two weeks of the West Coast swing, Merrick has shot in the 60s in eight of his last 10 rounds -- and the two most recent at Riviera have landed him in a tie for third at 8 under, one shot off the lead.
On Friday, Merrick fired a 66 that included six birdies and a single shot dropped to par. He only hit nine fairways, but that was four more than in the first round, and a solid 15 of 18 greens in regulation.
"I'm feeling comfortable with my swing," Merrick said. "I've been working on it hard. ... I feel like I'm in a good spot and I kind of figured a couple things out with my putting last week up at Pebble and made some good ones. Missed a couple short ones today but I think everyone is going to miss a few putts out there. Overall it was a pretty solid day on the greens, too."
Merrick is from nearby Long Beach and lives within 10 minutes of fellow TOUR pros and long-time buddies Peter Tomasulo, Patrick Cantlay and John Mallinger, who is three strokes behind after two rounds this week. He says he played most of his golf as a collegian at Bel-Air Country Club but he's racked up 30 or 40 rounds at Riviera, enough to feel "comfortable," Merrick says.
"This is a course you can't fake it around, you need to think around here and you can't just pull out driver on every hole or shoot at every flag, so you really have to know where to miss it and where to position yourself," he says. "There's a lot of course management involved with this course, and I think over the years, I've kind of learned where to go and where not to go."
But Merrick, who has made the FedExCup Playoffs each of the first six years of the competition, is still looking for his first PGA TOUR win. The 30-year-old has been runner-up twice, most recently at last year's FedEx St. Jude Classic where he owned a share of the lead after 54 holes.
"I've had a couple close calls, and dwelling on it and thinking about it, I think it's even harder," Merrick said. "I think winning just happens when you're kind of in your process and playing well and doing the best you can on each shot."
NORTON, Mass. – John Merrick needed to roll in a putt from off the green on the final hole Monday to give himself a shot at advancing in the FedExCup Playoffs. But his putt from just outside 57 feet didn’t fall, forcing Merrick to settle for birdie, his Playoffs coming to an end.
Merrick entered the Deutsche Bank Championship ranked 98th in points but was 5 under coming into the final round. He shot a 1-unde r70 that currently has him in a tie for 20th. He’s projected to finish 72nd in points – two spots away from a trip to the BMW Championship.
“I played solid, just not good enough,” Merrick said. “When you start out at 98, you can’t expect to just cruise through to the next round.
“You’ve got to play well – and I almost did.”
Davis Love III, a 20-time PGA TOUR winner, shoots for his first win since 2008 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.