Florida in the NCAA hunt despite loss of Tosti

By Ryan LavnerMay 15, 2015, 8:06 pm

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Florida entered NCAA regionals as the No. 7 seed, but even that might have been generous, given its current predicament.

The Gators are playing this week without their second-best player. Freshman Alejandro Tosti, fresh off a top-20 finish at the SEC Championship, was just released from the hospital after falling seriously ill with viral meningitis. 

The 18-year-old Argentine, who earlier this year came within a shot of earning a Masters invite via the Latin America Amateur, was hospitalized for a week and a half in Gainesville.

Tosti’s troubles began a few weeks ago, when he complained of tooth pain. His dentist cleaned out the infected area around an old root canal and thought he’d fixed the problem, but the discomfort persisted. A few days later, his tooth was extracted, but his headache became even worse. That’s when he landed in the hospital, where the doctors diagnosed the bacterial infection.  

Three times a day a trainer pumps food through a tube that is hooked up to Tosti’s inner arm and runs through the side of his heart. On Monday night, before his team left for the regionals, head coach J.C. Deacon went to visit Tosti in the hospital and reported that he was in good spirits.

NCAA men's regional team and individual scores

Full coverage: NCAA men's regionals

Even with both of his parents out of the country, Tosti never felt alone. He welcomed a small family within the athletic department, as more than 30 people, including his teammates, crammed into his small room to keep him company.

“It was really sad to see him in there,” Deacon said, “but it’s definitely given us a little motivation this week.”

In fact, last week, when it appeared as though Tosti would be too sick to travel, Deacon and the rest of the team made a pact to work harder than ever. Everyone logged early mornings and late nights.  

“When you’re desperate,” Deacon says, “something else happens.” 

Freshman Ryan Celano was tasked with filling Tosti’s void, and when he received the assignment, “I saw this look in his eyes,” Deacon said, “like, ‘It’s my time. I’m not going to let this slip away.’” 

And so, to prepare for regionals, Celano played 36 holes for four consecutive days.

“We just wanted to leave it all on the table,” Deacon said.

In the opening round, the Gators shot 7-under 281 and sat in second place. 

Their low scorer? Celano, of course, after his 69 matched that of teammate A.J. Crouch, who played only one tournament last year as he recovered from mononucleosis and tried to rediscover his passion for playing competitively. 

“Some people might look at this and think it’s a surprise,” Crouch said, “but we’ve been right on the brink.” 

Florida followed up that low round with a 4-over 292 Friday that put the Gators in a tie for fourth with one more round to go. The low five teams after Saturday’s final round advance to the NCAA Championship.

“I don’t think we would have played this well if this didn’t happen to us,” Deacon said. “It really brought us closer together, because we’re playing with a greater purpose here.”

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.