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Golf: Merrick wins first PGA title in playoff at Riviera

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Southern California native John Merrick captured his first US PGA Tour title with a playoff triumph over Charlie Beljan on Sunday in the $6.6 million Northern Trust Open.

Merrick, who had briefly held the outright lead on the back nine in regulation as the top of the field stayed tightly bunched, won with a par at the second hole of sudden death, Riviera Country Club's par-four 10th.

It was a long-awaited first title for Merrick, in his seventh season on the PGA Tour.

It was especially sweet coming in home territory for a player who attended the University of California at Los Angeles and now lives in nearby Long Beach.

"Growing up here in LA, I just wanted to come to this tournament. Now to win it, this is a dream come true," Merrick said.

Merrick was one of three players who started the day three shots off the lead held by Bill Haas and he carded a final-round 69 for 11-under 273.

Beljan drained an 18-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole to get to 273 and seize his place in the playoff. The American's four-under par 67 matched the best score of the day.

Sweden's Fredrick Jacobson (69), Haas (73) and 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (70) were one shot back on 274.

Merrick and Jacobson, playing together in the group behind Beljan, had arrived at the par-five 17th tied for the lead on 11-under, and Jacobson looked to have a good chance to move ahead when he stuck his third shot nine feet from the pin after Merrick had found a fairway bunker.

But the American managed to save par, while Jacobson couldn't convert his birdie attempt.

Both Jacobson and Merrick missed the green at 18. Merrick saved par but Jacobson capped his round with a bogey when he missed a five-foot putt.

South Africa's Schwartzel missed a golden opportunity to join the group at 11-under when he failed to convert a six-foot birdie attempt at 17.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130217/golf-merrick-wins-first-pga-title-playoff-at-riviera