LOS ANGELES —
Beljan, famous for having an anxiety attack when he won at Disney late last year, holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, similar to the theatrics provided last year by Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, to close with a 4-under 67 and wind up in a playoff.
Merrick, who grew up in Long Beach, had a number of big breaks on the back nine. None was bigger than his second shot on the par-5 17th headed toward the trees, only to find that he had just enough of a gap to go for the green and make par. He had a 69 and finished on 11-under 273.
He also hit the trees with his tee shot on the 15th, and while it left him a hybrid to reach the green, it could have gone anywhere.
“You give me 100 balls off that tee, I’m not going to be there in that spot,” Merrick said. “I just hit a bad tee shot and was able to make par there.”
Such are the breaks it takes to win, and for Merrick, it was a long time coming. He won in his 169th start on the PGA Tour, earned another trip to the Masters and is virtually assured to qualifying for his first World Golf Championship next month at Doral.
Fredrik Jacobson missed a 4-foot par putt on the 18th hole that would have put the Swede in a playoff. He wound up with a 69 and tied for third with Charl Schwartzel (70) and Bill Haas (73).