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John Merrick Overcomes Strong Field To Win Northern Trust Open

John Merrick fulfilled a life long dream on Sunday as the 30 year old California native bagged his first PGA Tour title at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera in Los Angeles.

However that dream could have become a nightmare when during a playoff he was faced with 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.

But Merrick hit the perfect shot under the trees on the 18th to escape with par, and followed it with another flawless shot to a thin section of the 10th green on the second playoff hole to 18 feet. He made another par, and won when his playoff opponent Charlie Beljan missed a 5-foot par putt.

Merrick, who closed with a 2-under 69, became only the ninth player to make this tournament his first PGA Tour victory. It could not have come at a better place. Merrick grew up in Long Beach, attended this event as a kid and went to school down the street at UCLA.

“I can’t put this into words,” he said off the 10th green, his eyes welling with tears. “Growing up as a kid, coming out here, I just wanted to play this tournament.”

Merrick, who finished on 11-under 273, moved to No. 4 in the FedEx Cup and is virtually assured of qualifying for his first World Golf Championship next month at Doral.