Annika the Best but Not Invincible

By Mercer BaggsJuly 26, 2004, 4:00 pm
Annika Sorenstam is vincible. Its actually a word. I looked it up. It means exactly what you think it would mean: the opposite of invincible.
Sorenstam held a three-stroke lead entering the final round of this past weeks Evian Masters in Evian-les-Baines, France. And, for some reason, the rest of the field still decided to wake up and play 18 holes Saturday, the final day of the tournament, instead of hopping on a plane and getting a jump on the upcoming Womens British Open in England.
And, you know what? Annika lost. To Wendy Doolan. Thats unpossible! (OK, thats not a word.) But what was thought to be impossible was just improbable, and in the end quite possible.
Sorenstam is the most fearful figure on any respective tour. Tiger Woods owned that title of intimidation until recently. But players no longer shriek and shrivel when Woods name nears the top of the leaderboard.
That was obvious earlier this year when Woods held the outright 36-hole lead in back-to-back weeks, at the Wachovia Championship and EDS Byron Nelson Championship, and failed to win either.
Time and again, Woods has won by simply being the front-runner. He's posted mediocre scores and not been tackled from behind because others were afraid to get close to him.
But no one backed down from Woods at the Wachovia ' even though they were well aware that he had won 18 consecutive PGA Tour events when holding at least a share of the midway lead.
This time, he wasn't able to get away with mediocrity.
And after seeing him finally fail to close, it had to be a little easier to stare him down in Dallas the following weekend.
Yet despite Tigers failures this season, he has yet to blow a 54-hole lead. Yet. That may be because he has yet to hold a 54-hole lead this season. And if he were to do that ' stumble as a pacesetter on Sunday, that would surely be the surest sign that Superman has entered his Fortress of Solitude and become mortal ' that Tiger, too, is vincible.
Woods has had some quite memorable and dramatic come-from-behind performances in his career ' just ask Steve Scott or Matt Gogel. But he became golfs Intimidator by consistently, opportunity after opportunity sealing the deal on Sunday. Thirty-two times on the PGA Tour he has held at least a share of the lead entering the final round; 30 times he has won.
Sorenstam, on the other hand, isnt as surefire a bet to finish what she started.
She has 55 times (according to taken at least a share of the lead into the final round on the LPGA Tour and 34 times come out victorious.
Fifty-five times?!? Thats a staggering amount, but you have to consider this includes 18 times when she held the lead heading into the final round in a 54-hole event and 37 times when she did the same in a 72-hole event.
The key to finishing ahead of the Mighty Annika, when shes nearing the summit, ready to plant her flag, is to extend the race to the top.
At least thats the story the statistics tell.
You might think that the longer the event ' 72 holes as opposed to 54 holes, the greater the advantage it would be to Annika. After all, there is less likelihood for an upset with an additional 18 holes tacked on at the end.
But Sorenstam seems to fare better in the 800 meters than in the mile.
She has won 12 of the last 13 ' and eight straight ' when holding at least of share of the lead heading into the final round of a 54-hole tournament. For her career, she is 13-for-18 in converting such leads into victory.
By contrast, she has won only six of the last 13 tournaments when taking at least a share of the lead into the final round of a 72-hole event. She is 21-for-37 under this scenario.
What does it all say? Well, it says that Annika has put herself in position to win an unbelievable amount of times. It says that 34 of her 52 career LPGA Tour victories have come when setting the final-round pace. That means she has 18 come-from-behind victories on the LPGA Tour. Woods, by comparison, has 38 career stroke-play victories (and two Match Play titles) on the PGA Tour, and only eight have been by way of comeback.
It says that you should be fearful of Annika when she lurks behind you, and hopeful when shes ahead.
And it says that, amazingly, she could have many more titles to her credit.
Yes, Annika Sorenstam is better ' and more intimidating to her peers ' than anyone on any tour. But she is vincible, as well.
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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.