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Beljan is hungry for a win at Northern Trust Open

LOS ANGELES--Win the Masters, and the perks go beyond the green jacket and a spot in the field for life. Win the Masters, and you get to select the menu for the Champions Dinner the following year.

The menu choice would be more than trivial for Charlie Beljan.

"I still can't stand food," he said Saturday after shooting a three-under-par 68 at Riviera Country Club. "I'm waiting for somebody to put out a pill I can swallow, and that will take care of it."

Beljan is tied for second place at the Northern Trust Open, two shots behind William McGirt, who is at 12-under 201. The tournament concludes Sunday, with McGirt looking for what would be the first PGA Tour victory of his career.

McGirt, 34, who turned pro in 2004, has played 96 PGA Tour events without winning one, and without even leading one after three rounds. He shot a 65 Saturday.

Beljan and George McNeill are tied for second. Jason Allred and Brian Harman are tied for fourth, three shots back. No one has come from more than three shots behind on the final day to win a PGA Tour event this season.

Dustin Johnson, the first-round leader, and Sang-Moon Bae, the second-round leader, are among the seven players tied for sixth place, four shots out.

For Beljan, the final day of this tournament conjures up memories good and bad. He tied John Merrick for the lead after regulation play here last year, then lost on the second hole of a playoff, missing a five-foot putt on the notorious 10th hole.

He has two pars and a birdie on No. 10 this year, and he had no trouble explaining what he had learned from last year's experience.

"I learned never to hit driver off No. 10," he said.

Beljan is trying to become the sixth player in the 88-year history of this event to finish second one year and first the next. That list includes Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and Phil Mickelson.

For his second-place finish last year Beljan earned $712,800. In the other 23 events he played last season, he missed the cut 16 times and made about $203,000.

"I still finished second on the PGA Tour," he said. "Unfortunately, I lost out on that bid to go to Augusta, but I've got a great chance to do it tomorrow."

A victory here would help broaden Beljan's story line. He has one PGA Tour win, but he is perhaps best known for an incident during a tournament two years ago, when he was taken off a Florida course in an ambulance, suffering from what doctors diagnosed as a panic attack.

He was so picky about what he would eat that sometimes he just skipped eating entirely. On the day of his panic attack, he had not eaten.

Now, he says, he is not afraid to snack on the course as needed.

"Lots of bananas," he said. "Probably a lot of junk food too, that I shouldn't be eating, but it tastes good."

Beljan said he felt "a little bit" of anxiety Thursday and Friday but said he has learned how to manage the condition. He has had no full-blown attacks on the course since that Florida episode.

The better Beljan plays, the more likely he will be asked to discuss his anxiety publicly, from one city to the next on the tour, all across the country.

He does not mind. If he can help others with the condition, if he can let them know they are not alone, he is happy to do so.

"Every week, people express how grateful they are to me that I shed a little light on it," he said. "My mailbox at home still fills up with letters from people ... just saying how neat it was and how thankful. They struggle with it.

"I just hope that, one day, somebody can find the answer how to take care of it."

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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