Impossible dreams come true
Last updated: 22nd February 2013
John Merrick's victory on Sunday at the storied Riviera Country Club was more than a long-awaited PGA Tour first. It was an impossible dream come true.
The 31-year-old six-footer from California has had two second-place and two third-place finishes in the nine years he's been playing professional golf.
He's also had 14 top-10 and 35 top-25 finishes and together with Sunday's $1,188,000 take-home pay, has overall earned just over seven million dollars in prize money. But even more special to him than the fact that he had finally made his big Tour breakthrough was the fact that he did it at Riviera Country Club, the long-time home of Hollywood's golf-playing film stars
Set in the Pacific Palisades in LA, Riviera is just six miles from the UCLA Campus where he played his college golf and from where he graduated in 2004 with a degree in Sociology and no more than 30 miles from his home in Long Beach, where he was born and which he still calls home.
Merrick openly admitted after he had edged past the faltering overnight leader Bill Haas, had held of Sweden's Fredrik Jacobson and South Africa's Charl Schwartzel and had then beaten fellow-American Charles Beljan to the punch in the play-off, that winning a professional tournament at Riviera had been a dream he never expected to come true. This was despite the fact that as a college golfer he had played its famous old layout more times than he could remember and had come to "love" it.
"I can't even put it into words," he told the media afterwards, with tears glinting in his eyes.
"I can't get the words out," he said trying to explain that what he had just done was something he never thought would be possible when, as a boy, he saw Steve Elkington winning the PGA Championship at Riviera and later when a college senior, he saw the likes of Australian Robert Allenby and Canada's Mike Weir hoisting the winner's trophy high .
"Yeah, you dream,"he said. "You know, you think about it when you're alone sometimes.
"As a kid watching on TV, I saw (Steve) Elkington winning the PGA here, right? I remember watching that. Did Ernie Els have the lead? Yeah. I always remember that.
Still struggling to put his feelings into words, Merrick continued: "Just seeing the course on TV and thinking, 'Oh my gosh, this is the coolest course.'
"You know, as a kid, you dream about playing that tournament one day. But to win it? You know, that was never.... I never factored in winning (at Riviera)."
The fact that Merrick was able to claim his maiden Tour win on a course he had always seen as having a high, up-in-the-sky, iconic image was made even better by the fact that he was able to do it in front of his family and some of his oldest friends.
"Everything came together this week with family and friends, people shouting, 'UCLA!'; People shouting, 'Long Beach!' To do it close to home like this. Wow!"
"I love the course. We all love the course," was the way Merrick summed up his feelings for Riviera on Sunday.
"I played it OK (this week), not great. I think I had a couple of (better) rounds where I was maybe 3 or 4 under playing in college."
This time, of course, scores didn't matter as much as winning - and he delivered on that one in a way he never thought would be possible.
Maybe now it will help him see that everything is possible.
John Merrick's Bag
Here is what Merrick's carried in his bag at Riviera this week:
Driver: Titleist 913D2 (8.5 degrees) with an Aldila NV75 X shaft
Fairway wood: Titleist 913F (13.5 degrees) with an Aldila NV85 X shaft
Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees) with an Aldila NV105 shaft
Irons: Titleist 712MB (3-PW) with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM4 (54 degrees and 60 degrees) with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Putter: Scotty Cameron Newport SS Tour
Ball: Titleist ProV1x (2013 version)
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