Kaymer hangs on to win Players by one

By Doug FergusonMay 12, 2014, 12:31 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Martin Kaymer never lost sight of opportunity even amid so much evidence of trouble in the closing stretch Sunday at The Players Championship.

A bad chip led to double bogey. A bad decision cost him a chance at birdie. With his lead suddenly down to one shot, he watched his ball soar against the gray sky toward the scariest island in golf and figured it would be fine.

What followed was a bounce sideways instead of forward, mystifying spin that nearly sent his ball over the edge and into the drink, a chip with his feet pressed near the wooden frame of the island and a 30-foot par putt that Kaymer chalked up to instinct and luck.

''It was a very strange way to make 3,'' he said.


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But it was enough to carry the 29-year-old German to a one-shot victory over Jim Furyk in a final round filled with stress, emotion and a large dose of satisfaction.

Kaymer got up-and-down with his putter from short of the 18th green for one last par, giving him a 1-under 71 and his first victory in nearly 18 months. The only time he nearly lost his composure was when talking about his mother, Rina, who died of cancer six years ago. He has a sunflower, her favorite flower, on his golf bag. His brother, Philip, sent him a text that he described only as a ''very emotional.''

''To win on Mother's Day ... we show our parents way too little,'' he said. ''We always need some occasions to show them, which is what you realize when they're not there anymore. So to win on those days ... it adds a little bit of a nice thing to the whole week.

''I think about her every day. I don't need a Mother's Day.''

Furyk closed with a 66, having to wait out a 90-minute rain delay to make a 3-foot par putt. It looked as though it might be enough to force a playoff, or even win outright when Kaymer started to struggle. Just as he did last week at Quail Hollow, Furyk could only watch on TV from the locker room and settle for second place.

''I did what I could,'' Furyk said. ''I left it all on the golf course, and I hung it all out there today and every cliche you can think of. I played hard today.''

Sergio Garcia (70) finished alone in third, though he never got within two shots of the lead at any point.

That wasn't the case with 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, who was tied with Kaymer going into the final round. He made his first bogey of the tournament on the fifth hole, and four more bogeys followed in his round of 74. He tied for fourth.

''I'm stinging right now,'' Spieth said, a runner-up at the Masters. ''It's not fun being that close and having opportunities and being in the lead on Sunday and not pulling it off.''

The typical stress that Sawgrass brings on Sunday was contained to the final hour, and it was almost more than Kaymer could take. He was sailing along until the lightning flashes and rain forced the rain delay. He had a three-shot lead with five holes left and was a different player when the round resumed.

He made double bogey from an aggressive play behind a pine tree on the 15th. He nervously chose putter from a collection area on the par-5 16th that turned a simple chance at birdie into a par.

Nothing could top the 17th hole, the most exciting on the Stadium Course. When his chip shot stopped just inside 30 feet from the hole, and bogey looked certain, Kaymer figured he still had one more hole. He couldn't see the line in the approaching darkness, though he remembered it from practice rounds.

When it dropped, he walked to the side and slammed his clenched fist in celebration, rare emotion for the German.

''Making a putt like this is more than big,'' he said. ''I think I will realize it the next few days.''

Kaymer finished at 13-under 275 and joined an elite group by winning the biggest event on golf's strongest tour. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott are the only other players to win a major, a World Golf Championship and The Players Championship.

For Spieth, it was his second big tournament in the final group. Tied for the lead through seven holes, he dropped shots to Kaymer on each of the next four holes - two bogeys by Spieth, two birdies by Kaymer.

Kaymer had just over 3 feet left for par on the 18th, and it made him think of his winning putt to beat Steve Stricker and ensure that Europe kept the Ryder Cup at Medinah two years ago. The celebration was different. This was for him, and a long journey back from when he won the 2010 PGA Championship, reached No. 1 in the world six months later, and then set out to improve his swing to avoid being a one-dimensional player.

''When I was standing over the putt, I just thought, 'It would be really nice to make that putt now, would be a very nice way to finish,''' he said.

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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."