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Merrick wins in a playoff at Riviera

For the second straight year the Northern Trust Open came down to a playoff.

On Sunday, John Merrick parred the second extra hole to dispatch Charlie Beljan after the pair overtook defending champion and overnight leader Bill Haas during the final round.

Last year, Haas needed a pair of extra holes to beat Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley with a lengthy birdie putt. He appeared poised for a repeat before carding a final-round 73, which allowed Merrick (69) and Beljan (67) to leap to the top at 11-under 273.

Beljan has publicly struggled with anxiety issues, but he calmly drained a tricky birdie putt on No. 18 at Riviera Country Club to get into the playoff. He sunk another tough putt on the first extra hole, as both players parred, but he couldn't duplicate the feat on the par-4 10th.

Merrick tapped in for par on the 10th and when Beljan's par effort from around 10 feet narrowly missed, the nearby Long Beach, California, product had his first PGA Tour victory in his own backyard.

"I can't put this into words," admitted an emotional Merrick. "Growing up as a kid, coming out here, I just wanted to play this tournament."

Second-round co-leader Fredrik Jacobson had a shot at joining the playoff, but he missed a 7-foot par putt on the last and finished with a final-round 69 -- good for a third place tie with Haas and Charl Schwartzel at 10-under.

"You want me to touch that one, only that one? I cannot speak about something else?" a frustrated Jacobson asked when questioned about the final hole. "The last putt wasn't very good."

The 2011 Masters champion Schwartzel, who was making his PGA Tour season debut, shot 70 on Sunday. He already has a win (Alfred Dunhill Championship) and a second-place finish (Joburg Open) this season on the European Tour.

Reigning U.S. Open champ Webb Simpson (71) and Josh Teater tied for sixth at 9-under, while Hunter Mahan (69) and second-round co-leader Sang-Moon Bae (67) finished at minus-8. Next week, Mahan will look to successfully defend his WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship title.

Haas entered the final round with a 3-stroke lead, looking to join Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Paul Harney, Mike Weir, Corey Pavin and Mickelson as the only back-to-back champions at Riviera.

Despite dropping a shot, the four-time PGA Tour winner had the lead at the turn, but Merrick birdied the 10th and Haas followed with a bogey on the same hole -- a 2-stroke swing which vaulted Merrick into sole possession of the top spot.

It was ironic that Haas lost the lead for good on No. 10, a hole that had been so kind to him in the recent past. The tricky par-4 played host to his 46- foot, winning birdie putt a year ago, as well as his chip-in for eagle and the outright lead just a day ago.

"Positives to be taken, but overall, you don't get this many opportunities," said Haas. "A 3-shot lead at one of the best tournaments of the year is a great opportunity that I squandered."

After his birdie at the 10th, Merrick turned the trick again on No. 11 with a straightaway 10-foot putt, but he stumbled to a bogey on the 13th to fall into a tie with Mahan at minus-11.

Mahan dropped out of contention with bogeys on three of his last four holes, and while Merrick held serve with pars, Jacobson grabbed a share of the lead with birdies on Nos. 15 and 16.

Beljan, who won the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic last year despite being hospitalized during the round for rapid heart rate and shortness of breath, lurked one shot back entering the 18th, where he ran home a twisting, left-to-right 15-footer to reach minus-11.

After Jacobson sealed his own disheartening fate by missing a par put from inside 10 feet, Merrick tapped in from close to set the playoff matchup.

A pair of pars followed at the same hole and then it was onto the 10th, where Merrick found the fairway and Beljan sent his tee shot well left.

Merrick then chipped from 90 yards onto the green and watched as Beljan sent his second shot onto the fringe to the right of a greenside bunker.

Needing to cover the majority of the green, Beljan putted from the fringe and went 10 feet past the hole. Merrick then calmly 2-putted for par and watched as Beljan's fourth shot harmlessly rolled past the cup.

NOTES: Merrick had two previous second-place finishes on the PGA Tour, most recently at the 2012 FedEx St. Jude Classic ... In his last two starts prior to this tournament, Haas tied for ninth at Farmers Insurance Open and ended knotted in sixth at Waste Management Phoenix Open ... Adam Scott, the 2005 champion at this event, finished at 6-under ... Graeme McDowell, who was making his season debut, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson and Bubba Watson were among those that missed Friday's cut.

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