There's a lot to love about John Merrick's Northern Trust Open win, mostly because the Long Beach-born and still-residing 30-year old is a former UCLA golfer and the closest thing to a native son to ever win the tournament (he passes Oxnard's Corey Pavin by 20 miles and is the first LA County born winner).
And after a birdie in regulation play and a winning-par on the second hole of this year's Northern Trust Open, Merrick's conservative approach paid off. So did his respect for the hole.
The Golf Gods do work in mysterious ways.
Check out Merrick's post round comments.
JOHN MERRICK: 10, yeah, I just butchered that hole my rookie year, and a couple years after that, hitting driver and hitting 3‑wood in the traps and finally just laid up. I actually hit 3‑wood yesterday to the front left flag and made par. But yeah, I've just been laying up on that hole and I know with a wedge in your hand from the middle of the fairway, I think it's better than hitting wood off that tee, and it paid off.
So I hit 3‑iron and then I had 90 yards and just hit a full lob‑wedge. I thought it was going to be a little bit closer and just kind of checked left. I had a straight putt that I thought was going to break left but I kind of just laid it out to the right.
Yeah, and then Charlie hit driver, and it's a tough hole. It's just from the tee box, you're sitting there and it looks like ‑‑ it looks so easy, looks like you are going to hit it up left of the green and chip on, but it's one of the great, short par 4s that we play on TOUR.
Q. Charlie had pretty negative feelings about 10 being a playoff hole, just because of the way the hole plays, and I don't think he felt like it's a fairway ‑‑
JOHN MERRICK: That's what he said?
Q. He said they should put a windmill on it.
JOHN MERRICK: (Laughs).
Q. Thinking about 10, were you confident going into it?
JOHN MERRICK: Yeah.
Q. And was that because you had come to peace with what you wanted to do on that hole.
JOHN MERRICK: Yeah.
Q. And did you think your shot had cleared the bunker off the club?
JOHN MERRICK: Yeah, you know, maybe ‑‑ I think the way I played the 10th hole, maybe that's just a microcosm of how I approach this course and kind of my experience on the TOUR so far.
I think it's one of the great par 4s that we play, short par 4s. Because when you look at it from the tee, it looks like the most benign hole. You don't see all the slopes up on the left and everything. It's so hard to hit a wood and be in great position there. I mean, there's this little window like a little ten‑yard window where you have to put it to get up‑and‑down. I think it's one of the great holes.
That 3‑iron I hit, it was kind of cooling off and it was kind of getting a little cold and it was 195 to clear the trap and I hit 3‑iron. I knew I had plenty of club, but it was just a little further right than I wanted. I wanted it further left to have a better angle. I had a better angle in regulation. But yeah, it just a 3‑iron and you've got a full lob‑wedge where you can take a full swing and put spin on the ball.
Yeah, I think that's the way to play that hole.
Q. So total confidence on your part?
JOHN MERRICK: Absolutely. I knew for sure with that back right flag ‑‑ yeah, total confidence. Why are you laughing, Doug?
I knew ‑‑ no, I wasn't going to hit wood. I wanted a full wedge in my hand from the fairway.
How hard was that?
Apparently, too complicated for runner-up Charlie Beljan. I know it's hard to believe that someone so respectful of his President and who doesn't eat for 20 hours at a time during the most important competition of their life might not be the sharpest knife in the set, but if he wants to win at Riviera, Beljan might want to remember the old "attitude is a decision" mantra before he arrives at No. 10 next year.
CHARLIE BELJAN: The 10th hole, it's been birdie or bogey all week for me. I've laid up, I've made birdie; I've laid up, I've made bogey. I've gone for it twice now and made two bogeys. But the 10th hole, it's a tough golf hole.
I don't really have anything good to say about the 10th hole. I think it's a funky golf hole. Obviously that's what Riviera, they are kind of known for the 10th hole. It is a great, short par 4. The green just needs to be a little more receptive. I'm glad that hole is not at TPC Scottsdale around the stadium where you see people making a big‑time fool of themselves.
Q. Merrick puts himself in really good position off the tee on 10, and you took a while to think about it. What were you thinking about and what happened on the swing itself?
CHARLIE BELJAN: I wasn't that upset with the drive I hit. I just knew I had to keep it left because he hit it right; I didn't think Merrick was in good position off the tee. I don't think there is a good position on No. 10. The only good position you're at is yesterday when I hit 2‑iron onto the front edge of the green and I got to 2‑putt for birdie.
Other than that, I don't think there is a good position on 10. Anything could happen. He hit a beautiful shot in there. It carried the bunker by a foot and it barely stopped from going in the other bunker.
So that's how it goes. My caddie and I was thinking about going for it, but to hit it in that little spot, there wasn't much chance. I hit a tough chip out of there. I hit a beautiful putt up there, and then I hit a good 4‑footer that when it left the face, I thought we were going to the next hole and it just broke more than I thought.
Q. They talk about local knowledge being so key here. Was there one shot or stroke in the playoff where you feel not having played here before made a difference?
CHARLIE BELJAN: No, not at all. I think you could play here 10,000 times and still not know how to play No. 10.
18 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.
Shocking he lost the playoff, isn't it?
Nice work Golf Gods, nice work.