February 17 2013
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?