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Oklahoma State Cruises to Stroke Play Win Over Duke, Grabs No. 1 Seed for Match Play

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STILLWATER, Okla. — Talent reigned in Stillwater on Monday with the fans turned up and the heat baking out a suddenly firm and tough course. Talent almost reigns in situations like this when tracks get crispy, and Oklahoma State shot a 295 in the final round to win the stroke play portion of the tournament at even-par 1,152.

It was two strokes off the round of the day and good enough for an 8-stroke win over Duke, which flopped late (I’ve been saving that up for like six hours please just laugh at it!)

The Pokes grabbed the No. 1 seed in the match play portion of the NCAA Championship and, as their prize, will get the No. 2 seed overall in Texas A&M to kick off the quarterfinals on Tuesday morning (more on this in a minute).

The Cowboys were led by freshman Matthew Wolff, who shot an even-par 72 and finished T7 on the week, six back of winner Broc Everett of Augusta (I’ll have more thoughts on ? shortly).

Viktor Hovland looked as if he’d have a shot at the individual title early on Monday, but he faded to a 75 that included a bogey-double-bogey-double stretch on the front nine en route to a 41 on that side.

Only three players broke par all day at Karsten as a course that got its record broken three times in three days lashed back with vigor. For Oklahoma State to have two golfers shoot even-par 72 was plenty to overcome a Duke squad they trailed by three to start the day and that didn’t have a single player break 75. Here are your final eight for Tuesday’s quarterfinals.

  1. Oklahoma State: 1,152 (E)
  2. Duke: 1,160 (+8)
  3. Texas Tech: 1,161 (+9)
  4. Oklahoma: 1,163 (+11)
  5. Auburn: 1,167 (+15)
  6. Alabama: 1,168 (+16)
  7. Texas: 1,168 (+16)
  8. Texas A&M: 1,169 (+17)

Nobody else seriously challenged the Pokes for the top spot. Here’s a look at how they finished individually.

Finish Player R1 R2 R3 R4 Total
1 Oklahoma State 287 285 285 295 1152
T7 Matthew Wolff 71 73 69 72 285
T11 Viktor Hovland 73 71 68 75 287
T19 Austin Eckroat 71 70 72 76 289
T48 Kristoffer Ventura 72 77 76 72 297
T52 Zach Bauchou 75 71 77 76 299

The good news is obvious, OSU has moved on, but the reality is that the real tournament has yet to begin. Alan Bratton, Kristoffer Ventura, Wolff and Hovland sat at the dais on Monday evening and spoke as if they’d just completed their third round of fall September practice. The No. 1 seed is not what they came for. The national championship trophy, which hasn’t visited Stillwater since 2005, is.

“The tournament starts over, obviously,” said Bratton. “First part is done. Whatever the score was … the conditions dictate things out here. You never know what a good score is. Our goal is just to be the lowest one, whatever that added up to, and we got that done. But the tournament starts over tomorrow.

Here are a few more notes from a terrific day at Karsten Creek.

• This was my first college golf event to cover. When I walked in the media center a member of OSU’s media relations department greeted me with a “finally, you get to cover a real golf tournament.” I laughed at that.

• Being on the course for any tournament in the final round is chaotic. That’s heightened when there are multiple players — one of whose score doesn’t count — and you’re trying to figure out where everybody is slotting in the match play seeding. I felt like John Nash trying to perform acts of wizardry with the golfstat.com website.

• Speaking of golfstat.com, they have to make a medium-sized fortune on the poor people hitting refresh on both their site and their mobile app this week on ads alone.

• Ok, back to Wolff. On the pro circuit we talk a lot about golf ball compression. Who compresses it best. Tiger’s stinger 2-iron is an example of outrageous compression. The best ball-strikers in the world all compress it exquisitely. Rory compresses it. Justin Rose compresses it. DJ compresses it.

All that to say, Matthew Wolff compresses the golf ball. His crazy knee-hook swing gets a ton of attention, and it probably deflects the attention his pre-swing wind-up should get. And it’s certainly a funky way to get through the zone, but booooyyyyy does he get through the zone. I didn’t see everybody on Monday, but there was only one guy I saw get through it better than Wolff.

• And that guy was Norman Xiong. I am weak in the knees after watching this superfreak play. Oregon coach Casey Martin has done everything but compare him to Tiger Woods, and I can see why.

I followed him for 3-4 holes on Monday, and he hit some shots that would shame half the pros on the PGA Tour right now. Pros talk about sounds a lot. Whose ball-striking sounds best. Who makes the sound. Geoff Ogilvy once said Rory’s sounds are better than Tiger’s were. Xiong makes sounds. And he’s about to make noise. I want all of the stock.

• Not good!

• I loved this quote from Wolff: “Stroke play was a lot of fun. I mean, it was a great experience, especially being at Karsten Creek, our home for our first national championship. That’s unforgettable.”

Might be one of his last, too.

• The Big 12 has four teams in the quarterfinals, and we could have an all-Big 12 final four if OSU, OU, Texas Tech and Texas win on Tuesday morning.

“You’ve got to credit all the coaches for working hard and all the good players in this area,” said Bratton. “Proud of the conference. That’s nice to see. And hopefully we all have a good showing in match play.

• One of the Texas Tech kids I was following hit a low bullet drive on the 6th hole and turned around to ask where the ProTracer was on it. I’m not positive he meant to catch it as low as he did. College kids.

• Patrons walking the fairways behind players is always jarring. Like a Francis Ouimet movie but on every hole with every player. It’s just sort of what happens around here, but it always catches me off guard.

• I saw two grown men walk up to Xiong’s parents and tell them, “your son is unbelievable.” A little birdie told me Xiong is about to sign a multi-million dollar contract with an equipment company later this week.

• Austin Eckroat was telling somebody in the gallery that he and Wolff spent the majority of their leftover money on their cafeteria card on Muscle Milk and now have loads of it in their refrigerator if you were wondering if OSU was nervous about the tournament on Monday.

• Speaking of Eckroat, he has the sickest stitched OSU belt I’ve ever seen. The golf swag OSU has between Swinging Pete towels, pistols putter covers and these throwback hats is just absurd.

• There was an all-compression photo taken with Wolff and Xiong after the round was over. I tried to jump in and get a shot, but the moment was too big for me.

• The match play selections for who plays in which slot happen at the podium with everyone in the media center watching coaches throw players’ names on the board. It’s low-key pretty intense!

Follow Kyle Porter on Twitter @KylePorterCBS

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