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February 11, 2014

John Merrick


MARK STEVENS:  John, welcome back to the Northern Trust Open.  If you want to talk about your thoughts coming back to defend here in your hometown.
JOHN MERRICK:  It feels great.  I had goosebumps driving if today, coming on property.
Yeah, I can't believe it's already been a year that's gone by.  It's been a great year.  Look forward to coming back and playing the tournament and yeah, it's just nice to have good memories about this place, and, yeah, real excited for the week.

Q.  What are some of the good memories?  What's the first thing you thought of?
JOHN MERRICK:  You know, I played here, I actually played Tuesday last week, and then I played probably a month before that.  And kind of stepping on the 10th green, that was like the first time I had been back to the course.
Yeah, I just kind of got goosebumps again thinking about, you know, all that happened on the 10th green, where the tournament finished; and having my wife and two kids out there and everything, yeah, just put a smile on my face and great things to remember.

Q.  Did you try to recreate that moment at all?
JOHN MERRICK:  Yeah, golf, it's all about, you know, trying to get some confidence going and trying to, you know, big back on those great things that happened and try to do it again.

Q.  Did you try to do the whole playoff again?
JOHN MERRICK:  No, I was just‑‑ I was just kind of reminiscing a little bit on the green, just kind of enjoying the moment and remembering, you know, what happened there a year ago.

Q.  But it's still a tricky green, isn't it, still no matter how you play it.
JOHN MERRICK:  It's a very tricky green.  There's a lot of them out here, a lot of subtle breaks.  I think you need to play quite a few rounds out here to get comfortable with the greens.
But the grass I'm comfortable with.  I grew up on poa annua greens and the kikuyu rough around here, so I feel comfortable on the golf course.

Q.  How many times have you played Riviera typically during a year?
JOHN MERRICK:  Probably played it throughout college.  We probably played it 30 or 40 times.

Q.  Post‑college, now.
JOHN MERRICK:  Yeah just during the tournament pretty much.

Q.  What brought you out a month ago?
JOHN MERRICK:  There's a member at our club in Long Beach who became a member here now, so we came out with him.  His name is Mark Dixon.

Q.  Does this course visually remind you of Virginia?  Does it lay out nice for you?
JOHN MERRICK:  Yeah, it has some similar grasses out here to Virginia.  It has some poa annua, has a little kikuyu, and yeah, kind of has an old style kind of tree‑lined feel so they are pretty similar in that cents.

Q.  And does that help you visualize how you want to play this course?
JOHN MERRICK:  Yeah, definitely.  Kind of has‑‑ it's definitely the same kind of style, kind of an old, classic style, tree‑lined, so you do kind of get some of the similar feels off the tees definitely.

Q.  What would you say your confidence level was like coming into this week last year, what was it like when you left and how long did it last?
JOHN MERRICK:  I played some‑‑ I feel like my years always get off to a little slower start but I feel like I was trending in the right direction.  I had some flashes of good play early last year.
Played a decent Pebble tournament last year and you know, I feel like in my stretches, I always feel I play better I think in kind of the third or fourth weeks of stretches and so I felt like I was trending in the right direction, and you know, definitely wasn't expecting to win or anything.
But I expected some good play.  And yeah, I won the tournament and yeah, it was a little overwhelming for awhile.  Had some lackluster play after that win last year, and you know, put together a few good tournaments after that.
But I'm feeling good this year.  I played decent.  Hit the ball really well in the desert and San Diego and Phoenix last week.  My stats were great off the tee and hitting greens.  I just need to make a few more putts.  That's kind of the thing with me, a couple more up‑and‑downs, a couple more putts to finish higher up on those leaderboards.

Q.  What was so overwhelming about it?
JOHN MERRICK:  Oh, I don't know, just I guess that's my first win out here for me, and you know, I guess maybe the expectations that come along with that.  Maybe it's just personal rather than everyone else, but I expected to play a little bit better after the win last year.
Had some good tournaments but this year I'm just looking to stringing a long some more Top 10s and playing a little bit more solid golf.  Good memories, definitely, here.

Q.  Does this feel like the 13th tournament of the season?
JOHN MERRICK:  You know what, it doesn't, because we just had such a long break.  But I'm fine with what they did with the schedule.  I think it's great that they kept those tournaments on and got the purses higher and the fields are stronger there now.  I think it would have been a shame to get rid of the events.
So I think more events are better for the TOUR and more chances for guys to play.  Yeah, I mean, it's a little funky that there's such a big break into between but all the other sports, I don't think their schedules are perfectly on the calendar, so I don't think it's a huge deal.

Q.  You got a sociology degree at UCLA.  Is there a case where you use that on the golf course to keep your frame of mind?
JOHN MERRICK:  Not really, I pretty much majored in golf at school.  It was tough to, I enjoyed sociology, it was a very interesting major, wasn't the most challenging major (chuckling), but UCLA is a very competitive school academically and athletically and you kind of needed to pick where you were going to spend most of your time, and I spent a little bit more time on the golf course I think‑‑ yeah, not putting that degree to use right now.

Q.  What did you pick it over?
JOHN MERRICK:  I tried an economics class early, and just, I mean, it was bad.  I think I got a D in the class actually, and we just‑‑ my excuse was, we missed so much golf and yada, yada, yada, that whole thing.  But UCLA is a very challenging academic school.  Sociology was a good pick in the end.

Q.  Premed was out?
JOHN MERRICK:  Yeah, definitely was out.  Wasn't going to become a doctor.

Q.  So going back to college, and you said you played out here 30, 40 times; did you imagine yourself winning at this course, would it be your first win, or that they would have a major out here?
JOHN MERRICK:  I felt like I could play good golf here, definitely.  I always felt comfortable on the course, every time we came out here, just stepping on property, I always felt comfortable.  Some courses fit your eye, you step up on the tee and you can kind of visualize where your tee shot is going to go.
I'm comfortable on the greens out here.  I always felt comfortable out here and like I could play good golf.  Winning is something you definitely dream about but you've got to hit the next shot and that's what you always worry about.  I always felt like could I play good golf out here.

Q.  Let's go back to college just a second if we can because I've never been a sociology major.  What are some of your other sociology degree friends, what are they doing right now?  What kind of job did you get in sociology?
JOHN MERRICK:  Oh, man, out of all my friends that were in the soc majors, I don't think they are using that sociology major are in what they are doing.
So, yeah, I know for a fact that they are not any social workers or anything.  Yeah, they are doing other things right now.  (Laughter).

Q.  Caddying maybe?
JOHN MERRICK:  (Laughs).  Gosh, I'm trying to think‑‑ I want to make sure‑‑ I think when we were on the team, there was a couple history majors.  I was a soc major.  I might have been the only one at the time actually.  Yeah, I don't think there was another soc major at the time.

Q.  In the previous rounds you've played here, I was looking at your stats, did you great on the par 3s and the par 5s but the par 4s were killing you, you were always plus but last year you were even‑‑
JOHN MERRICK:  Did you see these par 4s out here?

Q.  Yeah, that's what I mean.  How did they change?
JOHN MERRICK:  My stats were better on the par 4s this year?

Q.  Even on the threes and fours and then you killed it on the fives but how did you finally tame the fours?
JOHN MERRICK:  Out here, gosh, these 4‑pars are so tough.  I think you just need to be comfortable in your compete game out here.  You have to hit the fairways, definitely, if you're not in the fairway, you're not going to have control coming into the greens.
The greens are so small and so undulating, and you have to kind of pick the spot where you're going to land your ball coming into the green.  The flag placements are so tough, they always put them near the edges and everything, so you know where you need to miss.
Yeah, once you get to the green, that's half the battle and then it's kind of judging all the undulations on the green.
So I think in any tournament, any guy that's playing the par 4s well, I think they are going to play well in the tournament just because that's kind of the meat of the golf course and usually the tougher holes on a golf course.

Q.  What's your favorite par 3?
JOHN MERRICK:  Out here?  Gosh, well, I don't think you'll find a tougher one than No. 4.  That's a great hole.  I think 16, just it's real picturesque, you're getting the wind coming off the ocean into off the left.  It's only an 8‑iron or 7‑iron but you have to have the right distance.  It's one of the‑‑ it's one of the tougher holes out here.
MARK STEVENS:  Thanks for your time, good luck this week.

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