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Alan Bratton on NCAA Home Game at Karsten: ‘I Only See It as an Advantage’

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The NCAA Golf Championships start today at Karsten Creek, and Oklahoma State is a heavy favorite at its home course. The Pokes will play with No. 2 Texas A&M and No. 3 Oklahoma in the first round on Friday.

OSU is expected to win following its nine-win regular season and even more so because it is playing on its home course for the title for the first time since 2011 when Patrick Reed swiped the deed to Oklahoma’s biggest land grant institution.

HowEVER.

This is college golf. If teams were playing 10,000 holes this week and the lowest score took the trophy, OSU would win by 500 shots. That’s how good this team is. But that’s not how the NCAAs work, and that team in 2011 which featured four (!) future PGA Tour players as well as the 2009 team which also featured four future PGA Tour players (including Rickie Fowler!) both lost. The 2011 squad fell to Augusta State. The 2009 team lost to Georgia.

I thought Will Knights put it well on the Fried Egg this week.

Few things in this world are more unpredictable than 20-year-olds under a serious amount of pressure. Welcome to the 2018 NCAA Championship.

Knights went on to point out that there really isn’t any dispute over which team is the best in the nation.

Alright, let’s talk about them. Oklahoma State is the best team in the country, and there is no debate. They won 9 times this season. They are the deepest team with the best players. They will be playing on their home golf course … It would almost be an upset if they weren’t the 1 seed for match play. In the words of Dennis Green, “if you want to crown them, then crown their ass!” [Fried Egg]

However, that team just lost to OU at the Big 12 Championship at Southern Hills a month ago. So they’re beatable. Sure, they went on to win the Ohio State Regional by eight over Illinois to qualify this week, but Karsten will be a different animal with a different level of pressure than any of these golfers have ever felt.

I asked head coach Alan Bratton recently how his team, which has won eight of its last 10 tournaments, will view the pressure of being expected to win on their home turf with the national title (which OSU hasn’t won since 2005 and hasn’t won at all since it moved to match play) at stake.

“Obviously you love to play at home to have a crowd that’s going to swing in our favor,” said Bratton. “Hopefully they turn out in droves. That’s the biggest thing I’d like to see, I want to see a big crowd here. We’ve done that in the past. We don’t get that in college golf very often. I’d love to see that.

“I only see it as an advantage. Every sport you’d choose to play at home if you could, and we’re fortunate to get to do that. What a blessing that is. You only get four shots to play the national championship. To have one of those four at home will be really special.”

Our recent podcast guest and 2000 national champion, Edward Loar, said he couldn’t imagine how much pressure OSU is under this week. I can’t either. And with two freshmen — Austin Eckroat and Matthew Wolff — in the lineup, how they respond (and whether we get a Bedlam match play matchup) will be fascinating. There’s a real path to a final four of Texas, Texas A&M, OSU and OU as the final four teams in this event. The only question there is “where do I sign and how much do I have to pay?”

Friday-Monday: 72 holes of stroke play
Tuesday: Quarterfinals and semifinals of match play
Wednesday: Finals of match play

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