Oklahoma State Looks to Continue Success at Scarlet Course

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UPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio -- Mike Holder says his Oklahoma State Cowboys are no more than dark horses to win the NCAA men's golf championship this week at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
 
History says otherwise.
 
The last three times the national finals have been held at Scarlet, Holder's team has won the championship.
 
In 1980, the Cowboys beat Brigham Young by four strokes. Seven years later, they won by 16 shots over Wake Forest. In 1995, they won a playoff over a star-studded Stanford team, which had Tiger Woods, Notah Begay and Casey Martin on its roster.
 
'I wouldn't call them a dark horse because they've had so much success on this golf course in the past, for whatever reason,'' Clemson coach Larry Penley said of the Cowboys. 'He's won three national championships here, so I expect them to play very well here.''
 
Top-ranked Georgia Tech, Clemson, Oklahoma State, defending champion Florida, Georgia and Auburn all figure to be in the hunt for the 91st team title. The tournament starts Wednesday and lasts four days.
 
'Georgia Tech has won seven or eight times this year. They've shown, in my opinion, that they have by far the best team,'' said Holder, who has guided Oklahoma State to eight titles in all. 'Then you've got several teams that would be considered favorites behind them. I'd say Georgia Tech's the odds-on favorite, then Florida and Clemson have very good teams and have legitimate threats.''
 
Oklahoma State and Purdue tied for the Central Regional title last week, Clemson and Georgia Tech shared the East Regional crown and New Mexico and Washington tied for first in the West Regional.
 
The practice rounds on Tuesday were scrambled because heavy rains pelted the course. Most of the players whiled away the morning sitting around the clubhouse and talking before there was a break in the clouds in the afternoon.
 
The weather could play a big factor in who ends up winning. Rain is predicted for every day of the 72-hole tournament.
 
'Everybody's in the game with softer greens,'' Penley said. 'If anything, it might neutralize the field a little more. It might bring everybody more into play.''
 
Outside the pro shop is a brass plaque that declares Scarlet the collegiate home of 'the great player ever,'' former Ohio State golfer Jack Nicklaus, who grew up just a couple of miles from the course. Nicklaus was the tournament's medalist in 1961.
 
The list of recent NCAA medalists includes current pros Phil Mickelson (1988-89, '90), Justin Leonard (1994), Woods (1996) and Charles Howell (2000).
 
Among those considered the front-runners to follow in their soft spikes are Alabama-Birmingham's Graeme McDowell, Florida's Camilo Villegas, D.J. Trahan of Clemson, Troy Matteson from Georgia Tech, Hunter Mahan of Oklahoma State, Arizona's Ricky Barnes and Purdue's Lee Williamson.
 
Even though Holder said Georgia Tech is the team to beat, he added a warning based on his years of experience.
 
'The good news about this tournament is that it's not about who has the best team -- it's about who posts the best four-round total this week. And many, many years the best team hasn't won,'' Holder said.
 
'Georgia Tech's definitely got the edge, but there's a lot of responsibility and maybe some added pressure that goes along with that. Their ability to handle that and cope with the situation will determine how successful they are.''