Submitted by George Hines
Going into the final round two golfers, Retief Goosen of South Africa was tied with John Merrick of Long Beach, CA at six under par. John had played in the Zurich Classic since 2007 and has success in this venue. To be sure nothing like this had ever been achieved other than the 50th Bob Hope Classic in 2011 when he finished 2nd. Looking for his first win in the PGA he quickly went to first when Retief Goosen bogey the 1st hole. Retief, anxious to get back into a lead, birdied the second hole, a par 5. John sunk his putt for a birdie to hold his one stroke lead. For the next two holes both players matched one another, holding to par. Retief Goosen birdied the 5th hole to tie the match, at 7 under. More excitement on the 7th hole as both parties birdied the Par 5. The 2nd par 5 and both had been birdied. The tie was short lived at -8 when John Merrick bogeyed the par 4 8th, dropping to -7. Going for the clubhouse turn, John and Retief both birdied the par 3 9th. Retief Goosen 33, John Merrick 34.
The backside of the TPC New Orleans was no less exciting. Retief Goosen stepped off like he did the front nine with a bogey, this time a double on a Par 4. John Merrick held to the par level and took the lead again by one stroke. The double bogey on Retief Goosen’s card had some effect on his. While he played to par over the 11th and 12th holes, John Merrick had two unanswered birdies. Now leading by three strokes with 6 holes to go, it looked like his victory was at hand.
The 13th hole, a par 4, was birdied by both players making it the third hole in a row that John Merrick had bested the TPC course. The 14th hole was tied at three, the par for the hole. Retief Goosen then began his charge on the 15th when he birdied the Par 4. Trailing by two strokes and three holes to go, the crowds were going crazy. John Merrick took a breath as both players tied the 16th with a par 4. Now the 17th a par three, with a lake to the left of the green, was all that stood between John Merrick and his first title with exemptions.
The winds were swirling as John thought of last year at this hole when he double bogeyed this hole. Now, a melt down occurred when he triple bogeyed and lost the lead. A couple of well placed shots went to the left and slid into their watery grave. John Merrick was ashen faced as Retief parred his way home to finish at 69, one better than John Merrick’s 70.
Thursday, the Tournament began with Geoff Ogilvy leading at 7 under. K.J. Chio, Brain Gay, Pat Perez, defending champ Bubba Watson, and Carl Pettersson were at -5. A quartet of golfers were in third Webb Simpson, George McNeill, Andres Romero and Retief Goosen at -4.
John Merrick made his appearance at the top on Friday at -8 leading by 2 strokes over Cameron Triangle, Brandt Snedeker and Webb Simpson at -6. Retief Goosen and Jimmy Walker were in 3rd at -5. Jimmy Walker took over as the new leader at -8 on Saturday. D A Point joined Retief Goosen and John Merrick in 2nd at -6. Scott Stallings 65 pushed him into third at -5 with Ricky Barnes, David Duval and Brandt Snedeker.
A personal note: It was a big surprise to see Retief Goosen overtake John Merrick who was in the top 20 in Drive Accuracy, Driver Distance, GIR, Putt per GIR, and Total putts, while Retief Goosen was in the top 20 of two categories. Putts per GIR and Total Putts.