PACIFIC PALISADES, Ca. John Merrick was a young face in the crowd for so many years, dreaming of one day play at Riviera Country Club on the PGA Tour.
On Sunday, he did better than that. He won it.
Merrick hit two clutch shots that led to par in a sudden-death playoff and won the Northern Trust Open on Sunday when Charlie Beljan missed a 5-foot par putt on the second extra hole.
It was the first Tour win for Merrick, who went to school at UCLA.
Merrick closed with a 69. Beljan, famous for his anxiety attack when he won at Disney last year, holed an 18-foot birdie on the 18th hole for a 67.
Along with his first win on TOUR, the 30-year-old Merrick earns 500 FedExCup points and a spot in the Masters.
Leaderboard: John Merrick (won playoff) 68-66-70-69—273 (-11); Charlie Beljan 67-71-68-67—273 (-11); Fredrik Jacobson 68-65-72-69—274 (-10); Charl Schwartzel 69-67-68-70—274 (-10); Bill Haas 70-67-64-73—274 (-10)
— Merrick played the event for the sixth time in his career with only a T54 as his best finish in 2010. Before this week, Merrick had recorded two rounds in the 60s in 14 rounds at Riviera Country Club. He has three rounds in the 60s this week.
— Merrick has finished runner up at the 2009 Humana Challenge and the 2012 FedEx St. Jude Classic.
— Eight players have recorded their first-ever PGA Tour win at the Northern Trust Open: Len Mattiace, 2002; Kirk Triplett, 2000; Chip Beck, 1998; TC Chen, 1987; Phil Rodgers, 1962Fred Wampler, 1954; Johnny Bulla, 1941; Victor Ghezzi, 1935.
— Merrick wins the 18th playoff in tournament history and the second consecutive at Riviera CC. The only other time there has been back-to-back playoffs at the Northern Trust Open was when there was four consecutive from 1969-1972.
— This was the second playoff on Tour this season (Humana Challenge).
— Earns his 1st career PGA Tour victory at the age of 30 years, 10 months and 25 days in his 169th career start.
— Moves to No. 4 in the FedExCup standings. Brandt Snedeker continues to lead.
— Earns a two-year exemption on the Tour through 2015
— Records 14th career top-10 finishes.
— If Merrick stays in the top 10 in the FedExCup standings following the Honda Classic he will earn his first invitation into the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.
— Merrick came from three shots back entering the final round to force the playoff with Charlie Beljan.
— Merrick earns his third career start in the Masters in April. He finished T6 in 2009 and missed the cut in 2010. In 2008, Merrick finished T6 at the U.S. Open to earn a spot into the 2009 Masters. His top 10 at the Masters in 2009 got him in the field the following years.
— Beljan, who closed the 2012 season with a T10 at the McGladrey Classic and a win at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, records his fourth top 10 on TOUR. After finishing T23 at the season-opening non-cut Hyundai Tournament of Champions, he missed his next four cuts entering the Northern Trust Open.
— Beljan came from five strokes back in the final round to force the playoff with John Merrick.
— In his 13 previous rounds entering this week, Beljan had only three rounds in the 60s in 13 total rounds. He had three of four rounds in the 60s this week.
— Beljan was trying to win in his first start at the Northern Trust Open. The only players to win the Northern Trust Open in their first appearance are Harry Cooper (1926/first year of event), Danny Shute (1930), Tommy Bolt (1952), Pat Fitzsimons (1975) and Adam Scott (2005/unofficial win).
— Back in November at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic, Beljan spent Friday night in the hospital after heart palpitations, shortness of breath and fatigue in round two. He also took with him the tournament lead, then three strokes. It became a lead he would not relinquish. Beljan came into the final event of the 2012 season ranked No. 139 on the money list. With a two-stroke victory at Disney, he finished the season ranked No. 63. Since becoming the last official event of the PGA Tour season in 2007, no player had ever started outside the top-125 and gone on to win at Disney before Beljan. The winner previously ranked closest to No. 125 the year he won was Robert Garrigus at No. 122 in 2010. When Davis Love III won in 2008, he came into the week ranked 118th.
— Haas finished T3 to record his third consecutive top-10 finish after a T9 at the Farmers Insurance Open and at T6 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
— Haas recorded a bogey on No. 2 in the final round, breaking a streak of 42 holes without a blemish on his card. Before that his last bogey was on his 14th hole (No. 5) in the first round.
— Haas, who had a three-shot lead entering the final round of the Northern Trust Open, has only converted one of three third-round leads/co-leads (2010 Viking Classic).
— Last year, Haas entered the final round T6, two strokes behind co-leaders Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. In a memorable playoff, it was Haas who secured victory with a 45-foot putt on the 10th hole, the second playoff hole.
— Schwartzel (T3) records his first top 10 on Tour since last March (T5/Honda Classic and T4/WGC-Cadillac Championship), a span of 13 events.
— Schwartzel, who made his PGA Tour debut this week, has played in two European Tour events this season, finishing 2nd at the Joburg Open and winning the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December. He also won the Thailand Golf Championship on the Asian Tour by 11 shots at the end of 2012.
— Schwartzel is looking for his first Tour victory since the 2011 Masters.
— Schwartzel was trying to become the third South African in tournament history to win the Northern Trust Open: Rory Sabbatini (2006) and Ernie Els (1999).
— Mahan’s (T8) best finish in seven previous starts at the Northern Trust Open was T17 in 2009.
— Mahan, who was born in Orange, Ca. and is a lifelong Los Angeles Lakers fan, records his first top 10 of the season. Coming into this week, Mahan had three straight top-16 finishes.
— Coming into this week, Mahan only had seven of 22 rounds in the 60s at Riviera Country Club. He had three of four rounds in the 60s this week.
— Last year Mahan finished T24 at the Northern Trust Open and followed up the next week with a win at the World Golf Championships – Accenture Match Play Championship to go with his WGC-Bridgestone title in 2010. He joined Tiger Woods (Accenture Match Play Championship – 2003, 2004; Cadillac – 1999, 2002, 2003, 2005; Bridgestone – 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005) as the only players to capture multiple World Golf Championships titles in their 20s.
— Jacobson (T3) missed a putt from one-foot 11-inches for par on No. 18 that would have put him in the playoff.
— Jacobson made his sixth start in the Northern Trust Open. His previous best finish here was T13 in 2012.
— Fredrik Jacobson got into the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship earlier this week when Brandt Snedeker withdrew. Jacobson is ranked No. 66 in the Official World Golf Ranking. It will be Jacobson’s fourth start at the Accenture Match Play Championship. Fellow Swede Henrik Stenson won the Accenture Match Play Championship in 2007.
— Jacobson held the second-round lead this week. His only other second-round lead/co-lead was last year at the Travelers Championship where he finished T8.
— Northern Trust Open Exemption recipient Jeremiah Wooding (brother of the 2010 recipient) is the first Northern Trust Open Exemption recipient to make the cut and finished T42 after a final round 74.
— Webb Simpson (T6) records his first top 10 in five starts this season. Simpson has become a regular in the top 10 of PGA Tour events the last two seasons (averaging a top-10 finish every 2.5 events with 19 top 10s in 48 events in 2011 and 2012). In 2011 and 2012 combined seasons, only Luke Donald (22) has more top-10 finishes than Simpson’s 19.
— Sang-Moon Bae (T8) records his first top 10 since he lost in a playoff to Luke Donald at the 2012 Tampa Bay Championship. Two weeks prior to the playoff loss he recorded his only other top 10 on Tour at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship (T5).
— Josh Teater (T6) records his sixth top-10 finish in his last 15 starts on Tour. He had four top 10s last season, with each of them coming after June. He closed 2012 with four top 10s in his last nine starts and he has opened 2013 with two top 10s in six starts.
— Ted Potter, Jr. (T10) records his second top 10 on Tour in 30 career starts. His other is a win at the 2012 Greenbrier Classic.