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Just How Good Was the 2019 Oklahoma State Golf Team?

One of the best teams … ever.

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You already know the answer: really good. Historically good. Viktor Hovland was low amateur at this year’s Masters and U.S. Open – the first time that has happened since 1998 (Matt Kuchar). We’re two months removed from the end of the college golf season and Matthew Wolff already has his first PGA victory and $1.2 million in on-course earnings.

But back to the team. They fell short of winning the national championship because of the more-exciting-but-less-meritocratic format, but their performance in the stroke-play portion of the NCAA championships showed just how dominant they were. OSU finished 31 shots clear of the rest of the field, something that hadn’t been done in 44 years.

But let’s not stop there. Using Jeff Sagarin’s team and individual college golf rankings from 2000-2019, let’s take a look at this team’s place in history. If you want to read more about Sagarin’s system, here’s a link to this year’s rankings.

First off, let’s look at the individuals. OSU was led by the No. 1 and No. 2 players in Sagarin’s rankings in 2019, Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff. Other teams have featured more than one excellent player before, but we haven’t seen any other 1-2 combinations over the last 20 years. Still, here’s a look at all teams in that era that have had more than one top-five Sagarin player:

  • 2000: Georgia Tech (No. 2 Bryce Molder and No. 4 Matt Kuchar)
  • 2001: Georgia (No. 3 Nick Cassini and No. 5 Erik Compton)
  • 2003: Clemson (No. 2 D.J. Trahan and No. 5 Jack Ferguson) – won NC
  • 2006: Oklahoma State (No. 1 Pablo Martin and No. 3 Jonathan Moore) – won NC
  • 2011: Oklahoma State (No. 2 Peter Uihlein and No. 3 Kevin Tway)
  • 2012: Texas (No. 2 Jordan Spieth and No. 3 Dylan Frittelli) – won NC
  • 2013: Alabama (No. 3 Bobby Wyatt and No. 4 Cory Whitsett) – won NC
  • 2014: Stanford (No. 1 Patrick Rodgers and No. 4 Cameron Wilson)
  • 2019: Oklahoma State (No. 1 Viktor Hovland and No. 2 Matthew Wolff)

By the way, OSU also had four players in the top 40: Hovland & Wolff plus No. 14 Austin Eckroat and No. 36 Zach Bauchou. Not bad.

Here’s something that makes the Hovy/Wolff tandem a little more impressive, though. They weren’t just the two best players in 2019. They are the two best players over the last 20 years of college golf. I took the top five players in every year and sorted them by Sagarin ranking. Here’s the top 10.

  1. Viktor Hovland – 2019, OSU (66.93)
  2. Matthew Wolff – 2019, OSU (67.10)
  3. Collin Morikawa – 2019, Cal (67.50)
  4. Bryce Molder – 2001, Georgia Tech (67.70)
  5. Justin Suh – 2019, USC (67.80)
  6. Bill Haas – 2004, Wake Forest (67.92)
  7. Maverick McNealy – 2015, Stanford (68.00)
  8. Chun-An Yu – 2019, Arizona State (68.02)
  9. Jon Rahm – 2016, Arizona State (68.14)
  10. Beau Hossler – 2016, Texas (68.29)

Now let’s look at the team rankings. Once again, I took the top five Sagarin teams for every year from 2000-2019. Let’s see how it shakes out.

  1. Oklahoma State – 2019 (68.13)
  2. Oklahoma State – 2018 (68.66) – won NC
  3. Alabama – 2014 (68.96) – won NC
  4. Vanderbilt – 2017 (69.27)
  5. Texas – 2019 (69.30)
  6. Vanderbilt – 2019 (69.30)
  7. Cal – 2013 (69.31)
  8. USC – 2017 (69.35)
  9. Wake Forest – 2019 (69.36)
  10. Texas – 2016 (69.37)

A few things here that I want to draw attention to:

• The distance between No. 1 OSU (68.13) and No. 3 Alabama (68.96) is 0.83 in Sagarin’s system. If you add that amount to Alabama’s score you get 69.79, which is the team score for No. 31 on the team list for the last 20 years. That puts in perspective just how good the 2019 OSU Cowboys were.

• By the way, the No. 31 team on the list was the 2006 OSU team that won a national championship and featured former PFB podcast guest @zackrobinson26 (along with individual national champ Jonathan Moore).

• Number of No. 1 team finishes from 2000-2019 by school.

  • Oklahoma State – 7 (2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2018, 2019)
  • Georgia – 3
  • Georgia Tech, Alabama – 2

• Number of years each school finished in the top five from 2000-2019.

  • Oklahoma State – 15 (75 percent of the time, are you kidding me?)
  • Georgia – 10
  • Georgia Tech, Alabama, Texas – 7
  • UCLA, Stanford – 6
  • Clemson – 5

• Number of times each school had the No. 1 player in the country:

  • Oklahoma State – 5 (Howell III, Mahan, Fowler, Martin, Hovland)
  • Stanford, Cal – 2

• Oklahoma State also had the No. 2 player in the country three times: Hoffman, Uihlein, Wolff.

Number of top 5 players from 2000-2019.

  • Oklahoma State – 13
  • Georgia, Georgia Tech, Texas – 7
  • Alabama, Stanford – 6

Number of individual champions in this period.

  • Oklahoma State – 3 (Howell III ‘00, Moore ‘06, Wolff ‘19)
  • Illinois – 2

• Number of team national championships in this period.

  • Oklahoma State – 3 (2000, 2006, 2018)
  • Alabama, Augusta State, Stanford – 2

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