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SAN DIEGO - On a window sill in his closet is a chunk of bone that reminds J.B. Holmes why he's lucky to play golf for a living. It's part of his skull that was removed during brain surgery in September.

Holmes laughed Tuesday when he talked about this peculiar memento, even though there were a few nervous moments that made him wonder if he would ever get back to the PGA Tour.

"I asked the guy if I could have it," he said. "Because I grew it, so I figured I may as well keep it."

Holmes, 29, is thankful to be back on tour at the Farmers Insurance Open, his first tournament since he withdrew from the PGA Championship after opening with 80. He had been dealing with vertigo symptoms since May, and eventually was diagnosed with structural defects in the cerebellum known as Chiari malformations.

Holmes has lost track of the number of players who greeted him at Torrey Pines.

"It's great to see any fellow golfer, anybody you work with, come back from an injury - any kind of injury," Bubba Watson said. "But something like that ... I mean, brain surgery is not easy. ... Who cares if he misses the cut, makes the cut, if he wins. It's just good to see him back out here."


Gators top preseason baseball poll again

The Gators were picked No. 1 in Baseball America's preseason top 25 rankings for the second year in a row. Florida, national runnerup last season, returns the majority of its everyday lineup (including OF Preston Tucker, a Tampa native), key starting pitchers and relievers.

Miami is 18th, FSU 20th and UCF 21st. Full poll, 2C

Three-year deal for Mike Stoops: Mike Stoops has received a three-year contract that will pay him $600,000 annually to be the defensive coordinator for Oklahoma.

Later in the day, the Sooners announced Tim Kish - Stoops' former defensive coordinator at Arizona who succeeded him as interim coach - would be the linebackers coach. Also, the regents voted to approve a nepotism waiver because Stoops will be working with his brother, Bob.

Former Land O'Lakes QB leaves Bearcats: Former Land O'Lakes quarterback Steve Weatherford, who redshirted this fall at Cincinnati, is no longer part of the Bearcats football program, a school spokesman confirmed.

Weatherford, who signed with Cincinnati last year after initially committing to USF, did not travel with the Bearcats for their bowl game and is no longer enrolled in classes.

Cincinnati's compliance office is not aware of him transferring to another school.

Weatherford's Land O'Lakes career ended early when he was suspended for throwing a bottle in the school commons. He was arrested in 2010 on felony charges of burglary and grand theft.

et cetera

Soccer: The Rowdies signed English forward/midfielder Luke Mulholland. He scored the winning goal as the Minnesota Stars knocked Tampa Bay out of the playoffs in October. Mulholland, 23, won the league's rookie of the year award while with third division club Wilmington.

Winter sports:Marcel Hirscher captured a World Cup night slalom before home fans in Schladming, Austria, his sixth victory of the season. Hirscher beat Stefano Gross by 0.22 seconds. It was his first victory in Austria. Ted Ligety of the United States was sixth.

Antonya English and Greg Auman, Times staff writers; Times wires