(Joyce) #1

Tiger & Valentino find it

at Augusta National

by max adler


4 golf digest | issue 4. 2020 Illustration by Valentino Dixon


Ph: Max


Editor’s Letter

e don’t always
put the defending
champion on the
cover of our Masters Issue,
but this was a foregone
conclusion. The work for the
cover story began the moment
that fifth green jacket was
slipped on Tiger’s shoulders,
and the burden of a fraught
decade lifted off. In the
ensuing days and weeks, as
the declarations reverberated
across Twitter that golf
was saved and would never
be the same, contributing
editors John Huggan and
Dave Shedloski, along with
GOLFTV’s Henni Zuël,
quietly set about interviewing
everyone who was close to the
action while memories were
sharp. This conscientious
start was followed with a
sustained effort to collect even
more voices as the season
wore on. Their oral history of
Woods’ win (page 70), with
contributions from our Daniel
Rapaport and John Strege,
took a year to make. Posterity
was in mind, but we hope you
enjoy it now.
Tiger’s grin on the cover
belies world-class exhaustion.
We captured this image in
Jupiter, Fla., the first week
of November, not too many
hours after Woods had
touched down from Japan
with his record-tying 82nd
PGA Tour trophy as a carry-
on. Somewhat shamelessly,
we milked every moment we
could, putting Tiger through
the paces of stills, video and
sit-down interviews over a full
day, half of it in the hot sun.
At the very least, we kept a
steady supply of fresh shirts,
water and Diet Coke his way.

Beside this page is Valentino
Dixon’s color-pencil twist
of the cover photo shot by
Walter Iooss Jr. As you might
remember, Dixon—who from
behind the walls of Attica
Correctional sent us drawings
like messages in a bottle to
bring attention to his wrongful
murder conviction—recently
walked free after 27 years
and was Golf Digest’s guest
illustrator at the 2019 Masters.
Although Dixon wasn’t there
on Sunday to witness history—
he left Augusta on Friday to
attend the National Innocence
Network Conference in
Atlanta, then flew home to
Buffalo to watch the final
round on TV with his mother—
his role deserves mention.
Fate did swirl strangely above
Rae’s Creek last year, which
he has sketched as the fabric
of Tiger’s polo.

When Valentino and I
arrived on Tuesday, the first
place we went was Amen
Corner. It had been a photo
of the par-3 12th, brought
by Attica’s warden, that first
sparked Dixon’s unlikely
interest with golf. During his
past fraught decade, Dixon
spent more hours drawing

this hole than any other.
So to finally see these acres
in real sunlight, to know
the true spatial relationship
of the greens and tee boxes
and swaying pines, to see
the delicate moss growing
on the Hogan Bridge, was
quite a thing for him.
On Wednesday at the golf
writers’ dinner, Dixon fulfilled
a dream by giving his favorite
golfer a signed print—a
drawing of Augusta’s 12th, of
course. Dixon told Woods, who
was there to receive the Ben
Hogan Award, “You’re gonna
win this week.” To which
Woods responded, “I’ll do my
best. But I’m going to have to
beat this guy right here,” and
nudged Brooks Koepka, there
to receive the award for 2018
Player of the Year.

Of course, Tiger’s always a
pre-tournament favorite. Last
year a nongolf expert from
Wisconsin bet nearly all his
life savings on Tiger and won
$1.19 million. And with what
other golfer would Dixon,
an ultimate outsider to the
game, possibly find affinity?
But admit, the tournament
was decided rather eerily at
the 12th, where four of the
final six players in contention
on Sunday rinsed tee shots,
including Koepka, who tied for
second. If you can’t recognize
the intertwined magic of Tiger
and Valentino’s parallel and
long-awaited redemptions,
then your imagination is
somewhere along the bottom
of Rae’s Creek.
Since Augusta, Dixon
has continued to travel at
a frenetic pace to make up
for lost time. He has been to
Australia, Europe, Canada
and much of the United States.
He has water-skied, tried
sushi, swam with dolphins,
visited a bull ranch, you name
it. But frivolous, he’s not.
Along the way, he’s producing
and hosting a YouTube video
series, “Draw and Talk With
Me,” where he inspires guests
to find their artistic talent
while probing social issues.
His guests have included
former NFL star Ronde Barber,
a class of Parkinson’s sufferers,
a Buffalo police officer and
many more. His ambition goes
far beyond winning a lawsuit
against the city of Buffalo
and Erie County, which has
been filed.
Dixon will be at the 2020
Masters, this time at the
invitation of Augusta Mayor
Hardie Davis Jr., who is
proclaiming April 6 in his
city Valentino Dixon Day.
“The resiliency Mr. Dixon
has shown in going from
tragedy to triumph, that is just
like the spirit of the Masters
Tournament,” Davis says.

preview to history
Brooks Koepka and Tiger Woods
flank Valentino Dixon and his
artwork before last year’s Masters.
Free download pdf