Crane opens 6-shot lead as weather delays schedule

By Associated PressJune 6, 2014, 10:46 pm

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Ben Crane's back is OK, and his putter couldn't be working much better.

The combination helped him shoot a 5-under 65 on Friday to open a six-stroke lead in the St. Jude Classic before heavy rain delayed play twice and forced the suspension of play for the day.

Crane birdied his final hole Thursday night for a 63 and rolled in a 44-footer for birdie to start the second round Friday morning. He had a 12-under 128 total at TPC Southwind, matching the winning score in relation to par last year.

''I certainly didn't see this coming,'' Crane said. ''But you know when you're putting well, I started to feel like I was a little more in control of my ball, just felt like I was tightening my draws and fades a little bit. I had access to some holes I haven't this year and so gosh, it's been an incredible two days.''

Crane has spent the past six months changing his swing to protect his back. A four-time PGA Tour winner, Crane's last win came in 2011 at the McGladrey Classic and his best finish this year was a tie for ninth in the Humana Challenge in January. But he was in such pain he had a therapist with him for treatment during the round.


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''It's been a really, really hard year, racking my brain what's going on, what's going wrong and have I changed that much,'' Crane said. ''You start wondering, 'Am I going to get it back.' So this is super encouraging. My wife said last night, 'looks like you still got it.' Because you wonder. But anyway, it's been a fun start.''

Carl Pettersen and Jason Bohn were tied for second at 6 under. Pettersen had one hole left, and Bohn had two to play. Davis Love III (70) and Billy Horschel (68) were in at 5 under.

Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen were unable to start the second round. Mickelson, winless in his last 19 events since the British Open, opened with a 67 on Thursday, and Goosen had a 66.

Friday got off to a slow start with 60 players needing to wrap up the first round with the second started 40 minutes later.

Lightning delayed play at 1:03 for 59 minutes before play resumed for 13 minutes. Mickelson had just gotten to the tee when the horn blew again. Fans were sent home before a severe thunderstorm drenched the course, filling bunkers, fairways and cart paths with water.

Finally, play for the day was suspended just before 5 p.m. Players are due back at 7 a.m. so they can make the cut for the third round.

Love was glad to be done before the weather moved in even at 5 under, and he doubts Crane will run out to 24 under. This course where John Cook won at 26 under in 1996 was redesigned to a par of 70 after 2004.

''So he's off to a great start and we'll have to run him down,'' Love said about Crane. ''He's a great putter, and these greens are perfect, so he's got the advantage on us right now, but just hang in there.''

Crane had perfect timing for most of his rounds. He played most of the first round after the lengthy delay Thursday afternoon, which left nearly perfect scoring conditions with little wind and soft greens. He was in the first group off No. 1 starting the second round, and he birdied rolling in a putt with a break of more than 4 feet for the first of 24 putts.

He followed up his opening birdie by sinking a 22-footer for birdie on No. 7. He hit his approach from 147 yards out to 3 feet for birdie on No. 9 to reach 10 under through 27 holes. He sunk a 14-footer on the par-3 11th with the island green before rolling in a 9-footer for birdie on No. 13. His 8-foot birdie on the par-5 16th put him at 13 under.

But Crane hit into a bunker on No. 18 and missed a 7-footer to save par on way to his first bogey in two rounds.

''How do I keep this going?'' Well, certainly just keep doing what I'm doing, and hopefully the same game shows up, and obviously continuing to putt well helps your score,'' Crane said. ''I think that's the key.

Divots: This was the second straight round where fans were sent home early due to weather. ... Memphis hadn't had a weather delay since 2010 when the first round was suspended due to lightning. ... This is the 16th tour event this season with either a delay or suspension due to weather or darkness.

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Wrongfully convicted inmate who turned to golf artistry freed

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2018, 12:35 am

BUFFALO, N.Y. – A New York prison artist who never played golf but became known for drawings of lush courses he could only imagine was set free Wednesday after authorities agreed that another man committed the murder that put him behind bars for nearly three decades.

Valentino Dixon walked out of Erie County Court into bright sunshine and hugs from his mother, daughter and a crowd of other relatives and friends, ready for a meal at Red Lobster and vowing to fight on behalf of others who are wrongly convicted.

"I love y'all," Dixon shouted after trading the green prison uniform he wore in court for jeans and a T-shirt. "It feels great."

Earlier Wednesday, a judge agreed to set aside Dixon's conviction in the 1991 shooting death of 17-year-old Torriano Jackson on a Buffalo street corner and accepted a guilty plea from another man who had confessed to the killing two days after it happened.

"There was a fight. Shots were fired. I grabbed the gun from under the bench, switched it to automatic, all the bullets shot out. Unfortunately, Torriano ended up dying," Lamarr Scott, who has been in prison for 25 years for an unrelated attempted murder, told the court. "I dropped the gun and ran and it was over and done with."

Scott said he had gotten the gun, a Tec-9 semi-automatic, from Dixon and the two men had driven together to the crowded corner where the fighting broke out. Scott was given a sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison, concurrent with his current term.

Judge Susan Eagan let stand a count of criminal possession of a weapon against Dixon, and its 5- to 15-year sentence, which she said he had satisfied.



"You are eligible for release today," the judge said, igniting applause and shouts from courtroom supporters.

"Mr. Dixon is not an innocent man. Don't be misguided in that at all," Erie County District Attorney John Flynn told reporters after the hearing. He described Dixon as "an up-and-coming drug dealer in the city of Buffalo" at the time of the shooting and said Scott was Dixon's bodyguard.

"Mr. Dixon is innocent of the shooting and of the murder for what he was found guilty of," he said, "but Mr. Dixon brought the gun to the fight. It was Mr. Dixon's gun."

While behind bars, Dixon rekindled his childhood passion for drawing, often spending 10 hours a day creating vivid colored pencil landscapes, including of golf courses, while imagining freedom. Articles in Golf Digest and elsewhere have drawn public attention to Dixon's case. NBC Sports' Jimmy Roberts spotlighted Dixon in a 2013 segment for his "In Play" series on Golf Channel.

Georgetown University students made a documentary as part of a prison reform course last spring. The class worked with Dixon's attorney, Donald Thompson, to have the conviction overturned.

"It went so far beyond reasonable doubt that it's pretty outrageous that he would have been convicted and it would have been upheld," said Marc Howard, director of the university's Prisons and Justice Initiative. Howard taught the course with childhood friend, Marty Tankleff, who also spent years wrongfully imprisoned.

Dixon said he will keep drawing, while working on behalf of other prisoners.

"If you don't have any money in this system, it's hard to get justice because the system is not equipped or designed to give a poor person a fair trial," he said. "So we have a lot of work ahead of us."

His daughter, Valentina Dixon, was a baby when her father went to prison. She brought her 14-month-old twins, Ava and Levi, to court from their Columbus, Ohio, home.

"We're definitely going to go shopping and go explore life," she said. "I can't wait to get him a cellphone and teach him how to Snapchat."

Dixon's mother, Barbara Dixon, said she was in shock after relying on her faith while fighting for his release.

"We're going to Red Lobster," she said when asked what was next. "And everybody's invited."

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Thomas donating to hurricane relief at East Lake

By Jason CrookSeptember 19, 2018, 9:20 pm

Much like in years past, Justin Thomas is using his golf game to help with relief of a natural disaster.

The world No. 4 announced on Twitter Wednesday that he’d be donating $1,000 per birdie and $5,000 per eagle at the Tour Championship to a charity benefiting the victims of Hurricane Florence, which ravaged the Carolinas last week.

At a fan's suggestion, Thomas, who has averaged 4.35 birdies per round this season, also pledged to donate $10,000 for a hole-in-one.

Hurricane Florence made landfall on Friday just south of Wrightsville Beach, N.C., and has left much of the area flooded and without power. At least 37 people have died in storm-related incidents.

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Rose realizes his No. 1 ranking is precarious

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:18 pm

ATLANTA – Asked how he would like to be identified when he was finished playing golf, Justin Rose didn’t hesitate – “major champion, Olympic gold medalist, world No. 1.”

He’s had only a week to enjoy the last accomplishment, but the Englishman is aware of what it means to his career to have finally moved into the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“It's a moment in your career that you always remember and cherish,” said Rose, who overtook Dustin Johnson with his runner-up finish two weeks ago at the BMW Championship.


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Rose said he took some time last weekend with family and friends to relish the accomplishment and will play his first event this week at the Tour Championship as the world’s best, but he also understands how tenuous his position atop the ranking is at the moment.

“I accept it's really tight up top. It could easily switch this week,” he said. “I just feel that if I go to [No.] 2 or 3 this week, if Dustin and Brooks [Koepka] both play well, I have an opportunity the week after and British Masters, and going to China and Turkey, there's going to be opportunities to get back there.”

Johnson, Koepka and Justin Thomas could unseat Rose atop the ranking this week depending on their finishes at the Tour Championship.

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Likely ROY Wise not looking past 'special' East Lake

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:05 pm

ATLANTA – Much like the PGA Tour Player of Year Award, voting for the Rookie of the Year Award is very much a rubber stamp this season.

Brooks Koepka is a lock to win the Jack Nicklaus Trophy after winning two majors - the U.S. Open and PGA Championship - despite missing a portion of the season with an injury. Similarly, Aaron Wise, who won the AT&T Byron Nelson, is the only rookie this year to advance to the Tour Championship, which is normally the threshold players use for voting for Rookie of the Year.

“I knew with the rookie class that we had it was going to be tough, and the players still have to vote but it’s definitely something that was important to me,” he said on Wednesday at East Lake. “My focus is just finishing strong this week and giving them a reason to vote for me.”


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For Wise, who had four top-10 finishes this season and begins the week 21st on the FedExCup point list, the chance to win the award is gratifying, but being among the best 30 players on Tour, and securing his spot in all four major championships next season, is an accomplishment worth savoring.

“To win Rookie of the Year you have to have a solid season, but to make it to East Lake, so many guys don’t get this far. You really have to have a special season and this is really special,” Wise said.