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The story behind Spieth's 'Go get that' line to Greller

By Doug FergusonDecember 26, 2017, 6:15 pm

With three words, Jordan Spieth delivered a British Open moment as memorable as the 50-foot eagle putt that prompted his famous line.

''Go get that.''

He was telling Michael Greller to get his ball from the cup as Spieth stood to the side of the 15th green, still soaking up the significance of such a long eagle putt that restored his lead with three holes to play.

And there's a story behind it.

The reaction, while entirely spontaneous, might not have happened except for Spieth being in the makeshift gym all week at Royal Birkdale.

''I had been watching replays of the Open in the gym,'' Spieth said. ''There was a TV in there, and they were playing old Opens. For whatever reason, it intrigued me earlier in the week that the guys, when they made putts, they never went and picked their ball out of the hole. The caddie went and got it on long putts. And I guess that stuck in my head: 'You don't have to pick the ball out of the hole. Michael can go get it.'''

There was more to the moment, of course.

Two holes earlier, Spieth missed the 13th fairway so far to the right that it hit a spectator in the head and caromed into the dunes. When he found it, he realized the driving range was not out of bounds, took a drop, had to take relief from the equipment truck and sent Greller toward the green to scout out the shot. The whole process took some 20 minutes as Matt Kuchar waited at the green.

On the 15th hole, he was in a bunker in two and blasted out to about 6 feet, and then Spieth made his 50-foot eagle putt.

''Michael, when I looked over, he's laughing,'' Spieth said. ''For whatever reason, I didn't want to walk all the way up there. It was pretty far away. He started to walk toward the bag, but I was already walking toward the bag and I was really intense at that point. 'Michael, go get that!'

''It was half being serious, like: 'Go get it quickly because Kuch still needs to putt and we don't need to drag this on. I've already been in his way too much the last couple of holes. Let's not do that anymore.' And it was half intense - 'Pick that ball out of the hole.'''

Either way, Greller went and got it. Spieth added two birdies and his name was etched into the silver claret jug.


MASTERS UPDATE: Some of the best mail during the holidays is a simple white envelope from Augusta National, officially extending invitations to those who have met criteria for the Masters (and for past major champions no longer exempt who will be honorary invitees).

At the end of the year, 80 players already were eligible and expected to compete, a list that includes (for now) Tiger Woods.

That's two fewer than at this time a year ago, increasing the odds that the Masters again will meet its target of having fewer than 100 players at Augusta National the first full week in April. Having a small field is important to the club. The Masters has not had more than 100 players since 1966.

One spot awarded next month is reserved for the Latin American Amateur champion. No more than 13 spots will be available for winners of PGA Tour events (except for the new Dominican Republic event held opposite the Match Play). One of those is at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where all but seven players at Kapalua already are exempt.

There also is one more chance for players to qualify by being among the top 50 in the world on March 25.


TOUR LEVELS: Kevin Kisner has learned all about the different levels of the PGA Tour based on performance.

It starts with getting a PGA Tour card, a big deal until players realize they are limited in where they can play. Kisner didn't play a tournament with guaranteed money and no cut until two years ago at the Bridgestone Invitational.

The next stage is keeping a full tour card, followed by winning.

At the close of a year that saw him win Colonial for his second PGA Tour title and make his first U.S. team at the Presidents Cup, Kisner noticed something else about his change in fortunes.

''The tournaments I play now, I don't even see half the guys I used to see all the time,'' he said.

There's also the case of Scott Brown, one of his best friends who grew up with Kisner in Aiken, South Carolina, and is a member with him at Palmetto Golf Club.

''It's almost three levels of the tour,'' he said. ''But that's fine. It's part of it.''

Brown was a rookie in 2012, and Kisner had returned for a second season on the PGA Tour after losing his card. They played 23 of the same 24 events that year, the difference being Brown played the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook and Kisner played the Houston Open.

Fast forward five years, and Brown played 32 times in 2017. Kisner was only in 17 of those tournaments. The seven tournaments Kisner played that Brown didn't were three majors (Masters, U.S. Open and British Open), three World Golf Championships and the Tour Championship.

Kisner doesn't play the tournaments he did in 2012. He builds his schedule around the big events.

''Any time you move up in the world ranking, you change your schedule and your outlook,'' Kisner said. ''You start working around majors and World Golf Championships instead of playing every tournament you want to play.''


WORLD RANKING: Only one award is given for the Official World Golf Ranking, and Dustin Johnson earned that three months ago. He will be presented next year with the Mark H. McCormack trophy for most PGA Tour events in a calendar year.

But to look only at ranking points earned in 2017, it was tight at the top.

Jordan Spieth earned 450.43 points, finishing one-third of a point ahead of Johnson (450.12). PGA Tour player of the year Justin Thomas kept it even closer by earning 446.43 points. They were followed by Jon Rahm and Justin Rose.

The other players in the top 10 were Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood.


TALE OF TWO YEARS: Kevin Chappell won his first PGA Tour title this year at the Texas Open, sending him to Kapalua for the first time.

But was it his best year? Better than last year?

''Good question,'' Chappell said. ''I won this year, but I didn't have as many chances.''

A year ago, Chappell was runner-up three times, losing in a playoff at the Tour Championship (won by Rory McIlroy) and to a birdie-par finish by Jason Day at Bay Hill. He had seven top 10s, was No. 8 in the FedEx Cup and finished the year at No. 32 in the world.

The Texas Open was his only serious chance to win this year. He finished at No. 27 in the FedEx Cup and ends the year at No. 34.

Chappell attributed the difference to some back issues and untimely illnesses that kept him from getting any momentum.

What made this year memorable was playing on his first Presidents Cup team. He earned the 10th and final spot by 0.073 points over Charley Hoffman, and went 1-1-1 in a resounding victory at Liberty National.

And he won't be waiting until the January to get started on a new year. He leaves for Maui right after Christmas.


DIVOTS: Twenty players who began 2017 outside the top 50 finished the year in the top 50. The biggest jump belonged to Patrick Cantlay, who had been out of golf for nearly three years and started at No. 1,866. He ended the year at No. 38. ... Tiger Woods ends the year at No. 656 in the world, just four spots lower than he began in 2017. He played seven rounds of golf and had a missed cut, a withdrawal and a tie for ninth in the 18-man field at the Hero World Challenge. ... Dustin Johnson has to keep his No. 1 ranking for seven weeks to start 2018 to become only the fifth player to hold the No. 1 ranking for an entire year.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Jason Day and Rory McIlroy ended last year at No. 1 and No. 2 in the world. Neither won a tournament and ended this year out of the top 10.


FINAL WORD: ''I know I'm constantly going to get reminded of what I did last year versus this year and whether it's better or whether it's worse. I think the hardest part is going to be staying in the moment and recognizing that it's a new year. It's a new opportunity for great things.'' - Justin Thomas.


Note: Ferguson is the golf writer for The Associated Press.

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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."

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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.