John Merrick ranked in the top 30 in six major statistical categories in winning the Northern Trust Open.
(Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
|Category||Winner: John Merrick
|Driving Distance||298.8 (20th)||Jimmy Walker (309.8 yards)||T16|
|Driving Accuracy||53.57% (T27)||Y.E. Yang (71.43%)||T71
|Strokes Gained-Putting||1.157 (15th)||Josh Teater (2.050)
|Greens in Regulation||63.89% (T23)||C. Beljan, R. Fisher (72.22%)||2nd/T38|
|Proximity to Hole||33' 9" (11th)||Bob Estes (28' 7")||T27|
|Scrambling||65.38% (19th)||W. Simpson, E. Els (80.77%)||T6/T13
WEEKLY PERFORMANCE STATS ARCHIVE
Week 2: Sony Open in Hawaii
Week 4: Farmers Insurance Open
Week 5: Waste Management Phoenix Open
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- On a glass half-full or half-empty kind of Sunday, Bill Haas smartly chose the former.
Make no mistake, he was disappointed. But even after squandering a three-stroke advantage in a seven-hole stretch where he made five bogeys, Haas reversed course and still finished just one shot out of a playoff in his title defense at the Northern Trust Open.
"Maybe next time I'll handle it better but I know I'll be nervous again," said Haas, who birdied his last two holes to get into a tie for third. "That's part of the deal but hopefully I can handle it just one shot better, one shot better today I'm in a playoff and two shots better I win the tournament.
"Positives to be taken but overall, you don't get this many opportunities. A three-shot lead at one of the best tournaments of the year is great opportunity that I squandered."
Haas appeared solid early on Sunday as he two-putted the first hole from 37 feet for birdie and bounced from a bogey at the second with a 30-footer at No. 3. In hindsight, he wishes he'd kept the driver in his bag at No. 8 and the always-tempting 10th, and he'd love to have had a mulligan on his second shot at the par-5 11th that turned a much-needed-birdie-to-stop-the-bleeding into a par.
"Those three shots stick out in my head as, if I could do those over again, maybe it turns out something different," Haas said.
The soft-spoken South Carolinian, who picked up his fourth PGA TOUR win at Riviera a year ago when he beat Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in a playoff, had played well all week. The 64 he shot Saturday was stellar on a day when the venerable course was playing extremely firm and fast and Haas had what appeared to be a comfortable lead heading into the final round.
"I really felt good," Haas said. "Didn't think I could shoot over par, and then all of a sudden to be 4 over par for the day (on the 14th tee), just kind of hit me and every shot, I wasn't comfortable, and didn't hit a good shot. So I deserved it."
Even so, the tie for third with Fredrick Jacobson and Charl Schwartzel was Haas' third straight top-10 finish so he'll head to Arizona for the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship with momentum for his first-round match with Nicolas Colsaerts.
"Absolutely," Haas said. "Even just the last two holes there, to finish birdie, birdie putts at least somewhat of a good taste in my mouth."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Three weeks ago, Fredrik Jacobson didn't know quite what to expect.
The bulging disks in his lower back that had sidelined the Swede for essentially five months weren't bothering him anymore. He'd been able to hit balls again and get in plenty of practice rounds.
Competition, though, was another story.
Turns out, Jacobson need not have worried. He missed the cut in Phoenix but has turned in top-10 finishes each of the last two weeks -- including Sunday's tie for third at the Northern Trust Open where he came within a 4-footer for par on the 72nd hole of making the playoff John Merrick won.
"I think I've taken good strides in the right direction over these last few weeks, and you know, apart from that last putt, the Callaway boys got me this new Odyssey putter that I started with in December, and it's been really hot coming out this year," Jacobson said. "So it's been a good base for my game."
Jacobson hit his first 12 greens in regulation on Sunday at Riviera, then pulled even with Merrick, his playing partner and local favorite, with birdies at Nos. 15 and 16 in what he called an "amazing atmosphere" on the back nine. He had another shot at the par-5 17th that actually would have put the hard-charging veteran in the lead but the 9-footer there stubbornly refused to fall.
"It was a slippery one there, but that was a good opportunity to maybe get one ahead there," Jacobson said. "18, I don't know, it was really close, my second shot ended up close to the hole I guess (before rolling through the green). Looked pretty good from where we were. Difference between putting from the fringe and all that.
"But you know, the last putt wasn't very good, but it is what it is."
Jacobson also played his way into the field for this week's World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. He was the second alternate after tying for seventh at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am when the field was finalized and assured of a spot when Brandt Snedeker, who is nursing sore ribs, opted not to play.
Jacobson, who rose from 66th to 47th in the world thanks to his performance at Northern Trust, will play Ernie Els in a first-round match-up in the Hogan Bracket on Wednesday.
"I was just focusing on this week, obviously first I'll have to recharge, take a day off tomorrow and recharge for that when we get there," Jacobson said. "But as of now, I'm obviously very happy with the way my game has come along over these last few weeks. ...
"I wasn't expecting to be in the field coming into Pebble. It was my second week out, so I'm just excited to be a part of it. I'm looking forward to it."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- A year from now, Charlie Beljan plans to set up camp in his RV on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Coast Highway where he can see the sun emerge from the horizon each morning.
"Life is good up there," Beljan said.
As much as he looks forward to playing Riviera and the Northern Trust Open again, though, Beljan probably would be just as happy to skip the 10th hole where he lost to John Merrick in a playoff on Sunday.
Beljan bogeyed the driveable par 4 twice on Sunday, once in regulation and again when all the marbles were in the line. He pulled out a driver each time with the playoff attempt landing well left in the kikuya rough. His second shot found the collar, 71 feet away, and he putted to 5 before missing the chance to extend the festivities and win for the second time in six starts on TOUR.
"I think you could play here 10,000 times and still not know how to play No. 10," Beljan said. "18 (which he and Merrick parred in the playoff) is a great golf hole. You know, I just find it tough that we go to No. 10. To play a playoff hole, I think it's a great hole, don't get me wrong, 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."
That said, Beljan understands that the 312-yard par 4 is a part of Riviera's lore. He just wishes the kidney-shaped green were more receptive and he knew whether to lay up or have a go at it.
"I'm glad that hole is not at TPC Scottsdale around the stadium where you see people making a big-time fool of themselves," said Beljan, who made three bogeys and two bogeys there for the week.
"I've played it two different ways and I don't think either way is right. So I don't really know what the strategy is there, other than hoping you make par and that you move on."
Beljan actually had to birdie the 18th hole just to make the playoff with Merrick. He closed with a 67 thanks to that 18-footer on the 72nd hole that elicited a huge celebration from the gallery, then headed to the putting green to see what would transpire.
"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," Beljan said. "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."
Beljan appeared much more relaxed than the man who fought through heart palpitations that landed him in the emergency room as he won the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. He's learned he needs to eat before his round and even though Beljan's "pretty jazzed and pretty jacked" in the hour or so before he tees off, once he hits that opening drive he can relax again.
"I make things such a big deal in my head for that hour leading up to it, and then as soon as we get out there, I feel I'm in my element," Beljan said. Of course, this is the same man who asked Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson to sign his visor after they played together on Saturday because "those are two guys that I've looked up to my whole life," Beljan said.
Come Monday, Beljan and his family will pile into their RV and start the 2,260-mile drive to south Florida where he will play in The Honda Classic in two weeks. On the way, he'll play the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass to prepare for his first PLAYERS Championship and he's got pit passes for his first Daytona 500, as well.
Life really is good, isn't it?
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
Riviera Country Club changed tremendously from Thursday to Sunday during the Northern Trust Open.
Saturday was a huge shock to players who had to quickly adjust. Riviera became very dry and very fast due to a lack of moisture and wind. When PGA TOUR players hit short irons into greens that take a huge bounce and release upon impact, it gets a golfer’s attention.
Saturday and Sunday at Riviera were extremely difficult. Given the perfect weather conditions, I thought Riviera was the most difficult course we’ve seen this year on the PGA TOUR.
Home game: Riviera is a hard course to learn. The rough, the small greens -- they all require experience and local knowledge. You see very few inexperienced players win at Riviera. John Merrick went to school at nearby UCLA and played dozens of rounds at Riviera during college. His chip from behind the 18th green during the playoff showed a beautiful touch that could only be learned through experience. The 90-yard wedge he hit into the 10th green during the second playoff hole had the perfect amount to spin to hold the green.
Game plan: Fredrik Jacobson came to the 17th hole tied for the lead with a game plan. Everyone seemed to be going for the par 5 in two shots; Jacobson played to his strength and hit 3-wood off the tee. He is 152nd on TOUR in driving distance at 279 yards but is eighth on TOUR in wedge play between 50-75 yards and is fourth in strokes gained-putting. The result: drive into the fairway, lay up, wedge onto the green and a missed putt. It was still perfect strategy but his putt from above the hole could not be charged and broke across the hole. Jacobson had another misfire on the 18th hole with a pull left that could have put him into a playoff. You wonder if nerves played a role in his last two misses.
Posture: Charl Schwartzel weighs 140 pounds and averaged more than 305 yards per drive this week. He does not need body mass to crush the ball because he has perfect posture creating levers in the golf swing. Schwartzel’s swing produces effortless power.
Kikuyu: The rough took its toll again this year. The unique strain of African grass causes problems because it is thick and wiry. It’s often described as Bermuda on steroids. It was first grown at Riviera because it is so thick and was a perfect turf for the club’s polo fields. On a golf course, the long tendrils grab a golf club creating twist and misdirection. Chipping was also an adventure as the fringes, which contain Kikuyu, became sticky.
There was a good deal of guesswork involved this week playing out of the rough and fringe. Webb Simpson made an all-world bogey at the eighth hole when he drove wide to the right, took a drop, hit short of the green, chipped up to 8 feet and one-putted for a 5. He conquered both the kikuyu rough and fringe on the same hole and was so excited at making bogey he delivered a first pump.
Poa annua: One PGA TOUR player told me the West Coast swing means, “four weeks of poa.” The poa annua grass can be a beautiful putting surface but grows at an uneven pace creating “bumps” on the green. Like a speed bump, the ball rolls and hits the occasional ramp and gets airborne.
Players try to eliminate that deviant hop by striking putts firmly with lots of topspin. The problem with that strategy is the miss. If a firmly struck putt does not go into the cup, the player is left with a bumpy 3-footer. Bill Haas’ putt for par on the sixth hole got airborne twice and still went into the cup. Schwartzel’s putt on the 17th hole was bumped off line.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, 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. -- The Northern Trust Open is headed for a second-straight playoff.
Charlie Beljan made an 18-footer for birdie at the 72nd hole to tie John Merrick and Fredrik Jacobson, who were playing one group behind him, for the lead at 11 under. Beljan, who won last year's Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in the final start of his rookie season, shot 67 in the final round.
Both Merrick and Jacobson just missed the 18th green, settling 41 and 39 feet away. The Swede gave himself a 4-footer to save par but missed while Merrick, the former UCLA standout, made his save from 3. Merrick, who shot 69 on Sunday, is looking for his first PGA TOUR win.
Former Masters champ Charl Schwartzel had one last chance to join Beljan and Merrick in sudden death but he couldn't convert from 24 feet after missing from 6 on the previous hole.
The playoff begins at the 18th hole and then will move to Nos. 10, 14 and back to No. 18, if necessary. Follow along below.
No. 18 (480 yards, par 4) -- Merrick drives into the right rought while Beljan is 36 yards further in the fairway. Merrick punched it out and through the green. Beljan also missed the green to the left -- he's on the fringe and has 26 feet to the pin while Merrick has 27. Merrick chips to 23 inches for the eventual tap-in while Beljan putts 6 feet by and converts.
No. 10 (312 yards, par 4) -- Merrick didn't hit his tee shot as far left as he did in regulation but he laid up to an 87-yard second shot, which was 1 yard less than in regulation. Beljan, meanwhile, took driver and the ball strayed well left into the rough
Merrick's second shot found the green and settled 19 feet from the pin. Beljan's second landed on the fringe, 71 yards away from the pin and he putted to 5 feet. Merrick's birdie try stopped 21 inches and he went ahead and tapped in for the par. When Beljan's par putt slides across the hole, Merrick has his first PGA TOUR victory.
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Charlie Beljan is the first to post 11 under after pouring in an 18-footer for birdie at the final hole on Sunday.
He closed with a 67 -- the same score Bill Haas shot last year to get into a playoff -- and will now wait to see what Fredrik Jacobson, Charl Schwartzel and John Merrick do.
Merrick and Jacobson, who are playing in the penultimate group, are also 11 under and have just hit their drives into the fairway at 18.
Schwartzel, who has won twice and finished second once in his last three starts worldwide, missed a chance to join the group at 11 under when couldn't convert a 6-footer for birdie at No. 17. He still has a hole remaining.
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- John Merrick doesn't have to look far to see his nearest competitor now.
Not after consecutive birdies have pulled his playing partner, Fredrik Jacobson, even with Merrick at 11 under. The Swede made a 5-footer at the 15th hole and a big-breaking 14-foot putt for another birdie at No. 16 whilke Merrick was reeling off pars.
Charlie Beljan, Hunter Mahan and Charl Schwartzel are another stroke behind. Mahan and Beljan are playing in the group ahead of the two leaders while Schwartzel is in the final threesome of the day.
Merrick is looking for the first win of his PGA TOUR career. Jacobson made his breakthrough a year ago at the Travelers Championship.