Tosti's future up in the air as his fan club grows

By Nick MentaJanuary 13, 2017, 7:30 pm

PANAMA CITY, Panama – Alejandro Tosti has personality to spare. Every story, every sentence, comes with a force of passion, an air of performance. He has a talent for drawing others in, even total strangers. 

It’s of little surprise then that the 20-year-old Argentinian has a propensity for making new friends, strangely, and particularly, at the airport.

“I just start talking to people. I just meet people,” he says, throwing his hands in the air. “I meet people. It’s crazy.”

In Dec. 2015, Tosti was at Miami International waiting for a flight to the Dominican Republican for a practice round at Casa de Campo, site of last year’s Latin America Amateur Championship.

The problem was, as Leroy Christie explains it 13 months later: “The flight got delayed. And they kept pushing it back, and pushing it back, and pushing it back.”

It was a delay that lasted five hours, and so Tosti decided to make some friends.

“They were wearing golf hats, I think,” Tosti says, trying to remember. Everyone vaguely recollects him needing a phone charger, but ultimately, “It was golf," Tosti knows. "Golf brought us together.”

Christie, 62, and Denny Cummings, 55, were waiting for that same flight to the Dominican. Both of them from Jamaica, Cummings originally knew Christie’s brother, but became friends with Leroy when Leroy moved to the United States in 1987.

Almost 30 years later, they met Tosti at the airport, and Cummings decided, at least for that day: “We’re going to be your U.S. parents.”

The trio waited out the delay together, even though Christie and Cummings didn’t need to. The airline attempted to put them on an earlier flight, but they wouldn’t go. They wouldn’t leave Tosti.

“They started splitting us up,” Christie said on Thursday at Panama Golf Club. “And they’re trying to put us on the first flight, and I said, ‘Oh no, he (Tosti) is coming with us. He’s coming on our flight.'”

And so they waited, for five hours, and formed a friendship that has extended from Miami, to the Dominican Republic, to New York (where Cummings lives), to Arizona (where Christie lives), to the University of Florida (where Tosti plays for the Gators), to Buenos Aires, Argentina (where Tosti grew up), and finally this week to Panama City, for this year’s LAAC. The three say they talk on WhatsApp almost every day, mostly sharing jokes.

And when it came time for Cummings and Christie to decide where to take their next golf trip, the Wednesday of the LAAC just happened to fall on Cummings’ birthday. Even better, Cummings, who’s been coming to Panama to play golf for the last seven years or so, is friends with a local hotel manager, who told him: “Denny, if you’re coming down for your birthday, there’s a tournament, and we’ll hook you guys up.” 

And that’s how Cummings and Christie wound up outside the scoring area Thursday, waiting for Tosti to emerge after a disappointing first-round 74. When he finally did, he immediately went over to his friends, gave them a hug and thanked them for coming.

(From left to right: Denny Cummings, Alejandro Tosti, and Leroy Christie)

Asked how it felt to have them in his corner this week, Tosti answered: “It’s just something crazy. I’ve been meeting a lot of people. And with them, it was just crazy. Our flight got delayed, we met … and now we’re here.”

Christie and Cummings walked the back nine with Tosti on Thursday, reading his putts from afar and silently begging him to play his birdie putt on 18 a ball outside the right (he didn’t). They arrived at the course in the afternoon after a round of their own in the morning.

“We got lost coming here,” Cummings admits.

“We didn’t get lost,” Christie insists.

“Yeah, we kind of got lost,” Cummings says again.

And that’s the dynamic: They’re just two golf maniacs.

“We’re just maniacs, yeah,” Cummings agrees. “In fact, we just saw Dottie Pepper on the golf course and we were like, ‘Hey, DP!’ She turned around, and she was probably like, ‘Who the hell knows me down here?'”

Their biggest problem this week? “We’re upset right now with [the hotel],” Cummings says. “They don’t have Golf Channel.”

As for Tosti himself, he decided at age 6 that he wanted to play golf after watching the game on TV. At first, he was using a barbecue stick and a deodorant ball for equipment. By age 8, with his parents working and unable to drive him, Tosti was walking seven blocks to a bus stop and taking an hour-long ride to the golf course, by himself.

“The stories that he tells me about his struggles in Argentina, that stuff should go in a book,” Christie says.

“Natural sacrifice,” Tosti says without hestitation. “I loved the sport. I was just doing it. … At the time, I couldn’t see that I’d be here today or at the University of Florida, or traveling every two weeks. I was supposed to study, just as my brother and my father, to be an engineer. At 8 years old, I was to be an engineer.”

Instead, Tosti’s passion for the game eventually took him to the United States. At 15, he took his parents to the U.S. for the first time when the Argentine Golf Association paid for their trip to Palm Beach, Fla., so that Tosti could play in a junior tournament.

“My parents had never been to the United States, and all of a sudden their son was getting a free flight,” Tosti says, “and they … they couldn’t believe it.”

Tosti was runner-up at the inaugural LAAC in 2015 and third last year. A pre-tournament favorite to possibly take the title this year, he was able to play 13 holes at Panama Golf Club on Christmas Day, when he accidentally booked himself a six-hour layover in Panama City. At first, he was furious he booked the wrong flight, but then he took advantage of the opportunity, taking a taxi from the airport to the golf course and back to airport.

Unfortunately, once tournament play began, Tosti got off to an awful start, playing his first three holes 5 over and taking his shoes off to play from the water on No. 1. He went on to post an opening 74, but unlike last year when he went 75-65, Tosti followed up this time with another 74 to just barely make the cut.

The fiery college junior has a tendency to run hot on the golf course and to let his passions take hold of him. He said earlier this week, before play started, that he’s trying hard to remain calm and to keep things in perspective.

“I just come to this week way different than the last two,” Tosti told reporters Wednesday. “My goals are not short-term, so it’s just one more time to have experience and keep growing up.”

Tosti intends to turn professional at some point, but he’s in no rush, waiting instead “for that right moment," whenever it may come. In the meantime, he has a year and a half of remaining collegiate eligibility.

He’s also recently made friends with a NetJets pilot who routinely flies some the PGA Tour’s biggest stars, including, Tosti says, Tiger Woods. Asked how he made that connection, Tosti answers: "I just started talking."

Tosti also has a girlfriend who’s training to be a pilot. “Maybe one day we’ll be flying around the world,” he says, smiling wide.

As for his friends, Denny and Leroy, their futures appear set. Late Thursday afternoon, they asked where the 2018 LAAC was being played. Just hours earlier, tournament officials announced that they were next headed for Santiago, Chile.

“Oh, Chile?” Cummings said with excitement, as Christie let out a, “Wow. … Wow.”

“Well, we’re going,” Christie followed. “We’re going, man. We’re going.”

TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.


-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.

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Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.

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DeChambeau gets foursomes, fourball mixed up

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 3:31 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Bryson DeChambeau is an accomplished player when it comes to match play, having captured the U.S. Amateur and starred on a Walker Cup team. But don’t ask him to explain the semantic difference between the formats in play at this week’s Ryder Cup.

DeChambeau became crossed up Tuesday at Le Golf National when he was asked about the intricacies of foursomes play – better known to many Americans as alternate shot.

“Fourball, foursomes, I always get those mixed up,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just easier for me to say alternate shot.”

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Thankfully for DeChambeau, he still has some time to make a distinction between the two before the matches begin in earnest. And when they do, it’ll be fourballs for the morning sessions both Friday and Saturday, with foursomes in the afternoon – a change from the 2016 matches when DeChambeau was on the grounds at Hazeltine as a spectator.

While the foursomes format brings with it added pressure in an already tense environment, one of the biggest concerns is how well players can adjust to using the ball of their partner on a given hole. DeChambeau is known to leave nothing to chance in his preparation, and he’s already circled that particular factor as he gets set to make his Ryder Cup debut.

“It’s key because we want to be comfortable. Each player needs to be comfortable with the ball that they are playing,” DeChambeau said. “So for compatibility reasons, it’s one of the most important things out there in regards to alternate shot. It is the most important.”