Merrick, who closed with a 2-under 69, became only the ninth player to make this tournament his first PGA Tour victory. It could not have come at a better place. Merrick grew up in Long Beach, attended this event as a kid and went to school down the street at UCLA.
"I can't put this into words," he said off the 10th green, his eyes welling with tears. "Growing up as a kid, coming out here, I just wanted to play this tournament."
It was a tough finish for Beljan, famous for having an anxiety attack when he won at Disney late last year. He 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 finished on 11-under 273, moved to No. 4 in the FedEx Cup and is virtually assured of 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), who also had chances to win at different stages in their rounds.
Bernhard Langer shot a final-round 72 and won his second ACE Group Classic title in three years by one stroke over Jay Don Blake in Naples, Fla. Langer two-putted from 50 feet on the 18th for par to finish at 12-under 204
South Korea's Jiyai Shin won the Australian Women's Golf Open in Canberra by two shots, finishing with a 1-under 72 to beat world No. 1 Yani Tseng