Notes Barnes finds comfort zone in majors

By Associated PressApril 10, 2010, 4:55 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Ricky Barnes only has one finish in the top 10 in regular PGA Tour events, that coming at Riviera this year when he finished well back in ninth place.

Put him in a major, and it’s a different story.

In his first major since he was a runner-up at the U.S. Open last summer, Barnes was solid again Friday with a 2-under 70 that left him in the group with Tiger Woods at 6-under 138.

“I think that my last major that I played in got me ready,” Barnes said.

Even though he tied for second at Bethpage Black, that wasn’t enough to make Barnes eligible for the British Open or the PGA Championship. It only got him into the Masters.

“I was looking forward to coming here and playing well,” Barnes said. “I put myself in a good spot after the first two rounds and hopefully I can make some more noise on the weekend.”

Barnes’ only other trip to the Masters was in 2003 when he was the U.S. Amateur champion. Paired with Woods, he outplayed the defending champion by finishing six shots ahead of Woods over the first two rounds before finishing in a tie for 21st.

“I was telling someone last night that I never really wanted to come back here unless I was playing as a pro,” Barnes said. “It’s one thing to get invited by a member or something, and I would never turn it down, but I always wanted to come back here and play as a pro. And I’m here, and I want to take it a step further and compete come Saturday and Sunday.”


TAKE YOUR PICK: Like any good Italian kid, Matteo Manassero grew up playing soccer.

He also played golf and when it came time to choose, golf won out.

“I started golf at 3 years old. It’s always been a passion,” said the 16-year-old, who became the youngest player to make the cut at the Masters on Friday. “I’m better at golf, so I kept golf.”

But he hasn’t lost his love for the beautiful game.

“I really like soccer, too,” Manassero said. “I really like to play it and watch it.”
FREE WEEKEND:
Rory McIlroy will have to find something else to do this weekend. Maybe even longer than that.

After playing the weekend at all four major championships last year – and finishing in the top 10 at two of them – McIlroy missed the cut at the Masters Friday. His 77 in the second round left him at 7-over, four strokes off the cut line.

More troubling, though, is the back pain that’s been bothering him since February.

“The whole game is getting to me at the moment,” McIlroy said. “I think I just need to go home for a few weeks and try and sort my head out. I don’t know when I will play again at the moment. I just feel like taking a complete break to get my head right and the back cleared up fully.”

McIlroy is scheduled to play at Quail Hollow in three weeks, but said he might wait until the BMW PGA Championship, which is May 20-23 at Wentworth.

“The back is OK. I can still feel it, but if I rest it then it will be fine,” he said. “I just need to go home for a while and see what I need to do for the rest of the season to get better.”

McIlroy said he first felt the back pain during the Dubai Desert Classic, where he tied for sixth. Tests revealed nothing worse than strained ligaments, and the 20-year-old got treatment. But he’s broken 70 only twice in his last three starts, and missed the cut last week in Houston.

He made only two birdies at Augusta National, where he tied for 20th last year.

“I am just not myself at the moment, and this is the sort of golf course that makes your mistakes look even worse when you are slightly off,” McIlroy said.
LINEUP CHANGE:
Ian Poulter was on the practice range when he decided to change up the clubs in his bag. He took out a utility club and replaced it with a 3-iron because of the wind direction.

It all worked out fine – until he hit a tee shot on the par-5 13th in perfect position.

“That utility I was talking about? Would have been perfect,” Poulter said.

Given the sidehill lie, Poulter didn’t feel comfortable hitting the 3-iron. Instead, he tried to cut a 5-wood that went 45 feet long. He two-putted for a birdie, so it worked out for him in the end.
SHARP-DRESSED MOORE:
Ryan Moore is giving Ian Poulter some competition for “best dressed” at the Masters.

While Poulter likes to push the envelope with unusual color and pattern combinations, Moore is decidedly old-school. His outfits look like something out of the Bobby Jones and Sam Snead era, right down to the tucked-in ties.

“I love the classic golf look,” Moore said Friday. “I obviously have my own spin on it, but I love the Bobby Jones look. I wish it would come back.”

Moore, 27, was best known for shunning endorsements the first four years of his PGA Tour career. When he won at the Wyndham Championship last year, he almost looked like an amateur, with no sponsor logos on his bag or clothing. He signed earlier this year with Scratch Golf – the deal made him a part-owner – but he’s still dressing himself, putting together outfits from his personal closet

On Friday, Moore wore a navy cardigan with blue, green and white stripes, his peacock-blue tie tucked into his blue-and-white checked shirt and secured with a silver, antique car tie clip. On Thursday, he wore a blue tie and white button-down.
“It’s almost gone a little too sporty,” Moore said of the game’s current fashion trends. “I just love the classicness of (what he wears). I wish I could pull off a Sam Snead hat, but I’m not cool enough.”
DIVOTS:
Thongchai Jaidee withdrew because of an elbow injury. He was at 6 over for the tournament when he dropped out after 10 holes Friday. … Tim Clark and Vijay Singh were both playing with neon yellow balls. … Michael Campbell, the 2005 U.S. Open champion, failed to make the cut for his fifth straight year, the last for which he had an exemption.

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Web.com Tour releases 2019 schedule, trims Finals

By Will GraySeptember 20, 2018, 1:51 pm

The Web.com Tour has officially released its full schedule for the 2019 season, a slate that will feature a Labor Day finish and only three Finals events as opposed to four.

The developmental circuit will feature 27 tournaments, the same number as this season. Things will kick off in the Bahamas for the third straight year, as two events in the islands begin a stretch of five events in as many weeks across four different countries.

The Feb. 14-17 Suncoast Classic in Lakewood Ranch, Fla., will be the first domestic event of 2019, and one of three new events to the schedule. Also added are the Evans Scholars Invitational in suburban Chicago and the TPC Colorado Championship in Berthoud, Colo.

But with the PGA Tour overhauling its schedule and dropping a FedExCup playoff event to finish ahead of football season, the Web.com schedule also features changes next year. The Web.com Tour Finals, which are used to determine the 50 players who will be promoted to the PGA Tour for the following season, will now feature only three events and follow a similar timeline.

The first Finals event will be the Aug. 15-18 Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational in Columbus, Ohio, followed by the Albertsons Boise Open. The season will conclude Aug. 30-Sept. 2 with the Web.com Tour Championship in Atlantic Beach, Fla., one week after the PGA Tour season ends with the revamped Tour Championship in Atlanta.

The DAP Championship at Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood, Ohio, a Finals event for each of the last three years, has been dropped from the 2019 schedule. Gone, too, are the North Mississippi Classic in Oxford and the Rust-Oleum Championship in Ivanhoe, Ill.

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Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 20, 2018, 1:30 pm

Tiger Woods is looking to close his season with a win at the Tour Championship. We're tracking him this week at East Lake Golf Club.


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Inside Attica: Interviewing Valentino Dixon

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 20, 2018, 2:00 am

By RYAN GRIFFITHS

Some stories stick with you longer than others. First time you get to do a feature. First time you meet a sports legend (it was Allen Iverson for me). Seeing a championship isn’t bad, either. Been there, done that. Lawnmower museum on the east coast of England, tsunami survivors in California, re-connecting Al Geiberger with his lost 59 tape, all good, but no story or environment has stuck with me like going to Attica Correctional Facility in 2013 to tell the story of Valentino Dixon.

For starters, I’d never been searched before setting up for an interview. Not just me, everyone - all three cameramen, Jimmy Roberts, the guy escorting us in who worked there. Everyone. Attica trusts no one. Can’t blame them after 1971, when inmates protesting living conditions took members of the prison staff hostage. The ensuing police response left 29 inmates and 10 hostages dead.

Attica has a "shank wall," a collection of homemade weapons seized from inmates and displayed like baseball cards in a plastic case on the wall outside the guards' lunchroom. Prison interior decorating at its finest. Nice touch.

We went to do a story on an inmate who was introduced to the world in a Golf Digest article by Max Adler in 2012. "The golf artist who had never stepped foot on a golf course - Valentino Dixon.: He was in for murder. Second degree. You know, your standard golf story.


Wrongfully imprisoned man freed after nearly three decades


Dixon, a former aspiring artist before getting caught up in the Buffalo drug-dealing scene, started sketching photos from Golf Digest for the warden. I’ve never been to prison, but from what I have gathered from watching The Shawshank Redemption some 8,000 times, getting in the warden’s good graces is a smart habit to pick up if you’re doing serious time.

Dixon's art was insanely good. Even more so because he did it all with colored pencils. No paintbrushes allowed (see shank wall above). Jimmy, the crew and I stopped for a good 10-15 minutes to marvel at his creations before continuing with the interview.

We spent a solid 40 minutes talking to the man who supposedly killed a man 20-something years prior. In that time, he pleaded his innocence to us over and over again. He spoke like a man who had rehearsed every angle of his story over and over and over again. I give him credit - there were no holes in his story. I consider myself a pretty good judge of character, and he didn’t look like a killer, didn’t sound like one. either. But what did I know? I’d never met one - that I know of. And if you were stuck in prison for 20-plus years and all of a sudden had a camera in front of you and a platform to plead your innocence, wouldn’t you do your best to try to get out of there?

Since the guards wouldn’t allow any food, the crew and I stopped at the first deli we saw on the ride back into Buffalo. After we were done eating, we all looked at each other, knowing what we all were thinking: "Do you think he did it?”

Didn’t matter what we thought, we were just there to tell the story. On Wednesday, however, people whose opinions mattered made a decision and allowed someone who loves the game of golf, but has never stepped foot on a golf course, to do just that if he so chooses. That's a story that will stick with him for the rest of his life.

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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.


Inside Attica: Interviewing Valentino Dixon


"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.

“I’ve worked in this business for close to 40 years, and this is the most consequential thing I’ve ever been a part of," Roberts said after learning of Dixon's release. "I’m a sports reporter, but we helped get a man out of prison. I’m humbled and dumbstruck.”

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."