John Merrick is back in a PGA Tour event, but he didn't enter the tournament in the fashion he's used to.
The Long Beach native won Monday Qualifying for the PGA Tour's Sony Open, the first full-field tournament of the year set to begin this Thursday at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii.
A 6-under-par 66 on the nearby Fazio Course at Turtle Bay Resort earned Merrick one of the three available spots in the field, with long-hitting Tony Finau and Nationwide Tour veteran Doug Labelle seizing the other two.
Last season marked the second time in Merrick's four-year PGA Tour career in which he failed to finish inside the top 125 on the money list. His standing of 140th on the money list in 2010 was disappointing considering he combined to earn more than $2,750,000 on Tour in 2008 and 2009.
Now with conditionally exempt status, the 28-year-old UCLA alum will still be able to earn his share of PGA Tour starts. Plus, any top-10 finish at a PGA Tour event means automatic entry into next week's event.
Merrick, who has 10 career top-10 efforts in 117 Tour starts, finished tied for 25th at least year's Sony Open, his best performance in four career appearances there.
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