John Merrick was a young face in the crowd at Riviera Country Club for so many years, dreaming of one day playing the fabled course on the PGA Tour.
On Sunday, he did better than that. He won on it.
Merrick hit two clutch shots that led to two pars in a sudden-death playoff and won the Northern Trust Open on Sunday when Charlie Beljan missed a five-foot par putt on the second extra hole in Los Angeles.
Merrick, who closed with a 2-under 69, became only the ninth player to make this tournament his first tour victory. It couldn't have come at a better place. He grew up in Long Beach, attended this event as a kid and went to school down the street at UCLA.
"Yeah, you dream," Merrick said, his eyes still glossy. "When you're alone sometimes, you think about different scenarios of winning tournaments. ... To be able to play the tournament was a dream of mine. But to win? I can't describe it. It's so much fun."
It was a tough finish for Beljan, famous for having an anxiety attack when he won at Disney last year. He holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to close with a 4-under 67 and wind up in a playoff at 11-under 273.
He had to make a six-foot par putt on No. 18 on the first playoff hole. Going to the par-4 10th, 315 yards of sheer nerves, Beljan drove long and left, and his chip didn't reach the green. He putted from off the green 70 feet away and watched the ball go above the hole. He then missed his par putt
The key for Merrick might have been on the par-5 17th in regulation, when he pulled his second shot from a bunker toward the eucalyptus trees, only to find that he had just enough of a gap to go at the green and escape with par.
More great recoveries followed in the playoff. He was well to the right of the 18th fairway and hit a punch shot that rolled just over the back of the green and allowed him to get up and down for par. On the second hole, the dangerous 10th, he laid up too far to the right -- nothing short of a perfectly struck wedge could stay on the green, and he pulled it off, the ball settling 18 feet away.
Fredrik Jacobson missed a four-foot par putt on No. 18 that would have put him in a playoff. He wound up with a 69 and tied for third with Charl Schwartzel (70) and defending champion Bill Haas (73).
Champions Tour: Bernhard Langer shot a final-round 72 and won his second ACE Group Classic title in three years in Naples, Fla.
He two-putted from 50 feet on the 18th for par to finish at 12-under 204, a shot ahead of Jay Don Blake (68) at the TwinEagles course.
LPGA Tour: Jiyai Shin won the Australian Women's Golf Open by two shots, closing with a 1-under 72 to beat Yani Tseng (66) after being tied for the overnight lead with amateur Lydia Ko (75) at Royal Canberra.
Shin finished at 18-under 274. Ko began with a double bogey and bogey. The 15-year-old finished at 278.