Woods takes AT&T for third victory of the season

By Doug FergusonJuly 2, 2012, 1:22 am

BETHESDA, Md. – The flight of his shot into the 18th green was so pure that Tiger Woods immediately started walking and twirled his club, knowing that it effectively wrapped up another win at the AT&T National. Making it even more special was the sound of thousands of fans at Congressional to see it.

One day after spectators were kept away from the golf course because of debris from a violent wind storm, they returned Sunday in full force and got what they expected - Woods in his red shirt, outlasting Bo Van Pelt in a back-nine duel, and posing with another trophy.

''Yesterday was a silent day,'' Woods said. ''I think everyone saved up for today. What an atmosphere to play in front of.''

Woods closed with a 2-under 69 - at one point going 41 holes without a bogey on a Congressional course that was tougher than when it held the U.S. Open last year - and won for the third time this year. It was the 74th win of his career, moving him past Jack Nicklaus into second place on the PGA Tour, eight short of Sam Snead's record.


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Not bad for a guy who only five months ago walked off the course at Doral with another injury to his left Achilles tendon.

''I remember there was a time when people were saying I could never win again,'' Woods said.

He stayed at No. 4 in the world, but a couple of other rankings indicate how he is trending. Woods moved to the top of the PGA Tour money list and the FedEx Cup standings for the first time since September 2009.

And this win puts him in a position to reclaim No. 1 over the final two majors of the year. The ranking is based on points over two years. If it were a vote, Van Pelt knows how he would cast his ballot.

''I think he's the only guy to win three tournaments on tour this year, is that correct?'' he said. ''On three different golf courses. And he was leading the U.S. Open after two days. So I'd say that he's playing the best golf in the world right now.''

Van Pelt made him work for it.

Three times, Woods took the outright lead in the final round. Each time, Van Pelt made a birdie of his own to catch him. The tournament was decided on the last three holes, and it featured a surprising turn of events.

Van Pelt had Woods on the ropes on the par-5 16th by ripping a 345-yard tee shot and having only a 6-iron into the green. Woods hit a spectator in the left rough with his tee shot, laid up, and then attacked a back flag only to see the ball tumble over the green and down an 8-foot slope. It looked as if it might be a two-shot swing for Van Pelt, or at least the lead going to the 17th.

That's when Van Pelt answered with unforced errors of his own. His 6-iron was slightly heavy and didn't quite reach the bunker, meaning he had to plant his feet in the sand and grip the wedge on the shaft for his third shot. He moved it only a few yards, still in the collar of the rough, and chipped about 12 feet by the hole. Woods' chip up the slope rolled 15 feet by, and he missed the par putt.

Van Pelt also missed his par putt, and they walked away from that mess still tied for the lead.

''It was difficult from the standpoint I had my legs in the bunker, and if I hit that chip a little too hard it goes over the green because you can't put any spin on it,'' Van Pelt said. ''I was just trying to get the ball up in the air and play it out to the right a little bit and just got underneath it a little bit. And the second one, I thought I hit great. I was surprised it rolled that far. And the putt, I mean, I've probably never hit a better putt than that in my life under those kind of circumstances.


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''I pretty much hit every shot the way I wanted to that hole, just ended up being 6.''

On the 17th, Van Pelt caught a flier from the first cut of rough and the ball shot over the green and near the grandstand, leaving him an impossible chip. He hit through the green and had to scramble to make bogey, and Woods took the outright lead for the third time all day - this time for good.

He made a 6-foot par putt, taking a one-shot lead to the 18th, and played it to perfection.

Brendon de Jonge of Zimbabwe, who had a one-shot lead going into the final round, didn't make birdie and closed with a 77.

Adam Scott went out in 31 and was briefly tied for the lead until a few bogeys on the back nine. He had to settle for a 67, which put him alone in third at 5 under.

Billy Hurley, the Annapolis graduate who spent five years in the Navy, closed with a 72 and tied for fourth along with Robert Garrigus (70), Jhonattan Vegas (71) and Seung-Yul Noh of South Korea, who had a 73.

Woods has three wins, all of them in a different manner.

He pulled away early at Bay Hill and played efficiently for a five-shot win; he rallied from four shots behind with an incredible chip-in late in the round and won the Memorial. This was a two-man duel he hasn't experienced in America since he was on the losing end to Y.E. Yang in the 2009 PGA Championship.

One day after spectators were kept out of Congressional because of toppled trees and hundreds of limbs scattered about the course, they were as loud as ever. The marshals were back to work, collecting a half-dozen cell phones from fans who were caught taking pictures.

Woods complained of a camera on his tee shot on the 16th, and having to back off his tee shot on the 17th because of another camera. That didn't happen on Saturday. But he loved what he called the pent-up energy of the crowd, and couldn't imagine what it would have been like if there had been no spectators when the trophy was handed out.

''As long as I won, I would be OK,'' he said.

Scott, who overslept Thursday morning and made it to the tee with only minutes to spare, ran off four straight birdies late on the front nine to reach 6 under. But after making three tough par saves on the back nine, he ran out of luck. Back-to-back bogeys took him out of the game.

''The story of my year. I need to try and play well for four days,'' said Scott, who opened with a 75. ''You can 'if' and 'but' and you can argue, but my 3 over through three was due to my very brief warm-up on Thursday, and that might end up being the difference between winning and not this week. I only have myself to blame.''

In the final hour, it was clear this would come down to Woods and Van Pelt - one player with more than 70 career wins and another guy whose only official PGA Tour win came in Milwaukee, a tournament that no longer exists.

On the golf course, they looked far more equal than their records indicate.

Woods delivered a made-for-TV shot on the 12th hole when his tee shot left and close to a tree. He couldn't follow through without hitting the tree, and he warned the gallery that the 9-iron might snap in half. Instead, the shaft glanced off the tree and bowed at impact, while the shot sailed toward the flag and settled 30 feet away.

Van Pelt was simply efficient. He twice missed birdie putts inside 15 feet, but he kept giving himself chances.

In the end, all he made were mistakes, which rarely works against Woods.

''He's an amazing player,'' Van Pelt said. ''We've known each other a long time, probably 20 years. He's fun to play with. That's why you travel 30 weeks a year, why you get up in the morning and you the sacrifices that you do, to have the opportunity to play the best player in the world in the final round with a chance to win.''

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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.


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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.


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"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.