No. 1 Oklahoma State survives Texas A&M surge to reach NCAA semis at home

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No. 1 Oklahoma State survives Texas A&M surge to reach NCAA semis at home

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No. 1 Oklahoma State survives Texas A&M surge to reach NCAA semis at home

STILLWATER, Okla. – What pressure?

Host, top-ranked and top-seeded Oklahoma State has all the expectations this week at the NCAA Championship and, just to make things tougher, drew No. 2 Texas A&M in the quarterfinals.

No problem. Well, in the end.

The Cowboys had the Aggies on the ropes Tuesday morning at Karsten Creek Golf Club before Texas A&M produced a late charge. But Oklahoma State rallied against the surge to win the match 3-1-1 and move onto the semifinals.

The dream week continues thus far, as Oklahoma State stays alive in match play after medaling in stroke play by eight shots.

But medaling in stroke play in the NCAA Championship match play era has not produced returns for the Cowboys. The team captured stroke play in the first two years of the format (2009, ’10) but failed to win the national title either year.

The Cowboys didn’t medal in 2011, yet the scenario of coming in No. 1 at a home NCAAs arose. That year, the team lost in the semis to miss another opportunity. Will 2018 be different?

It’s still too early to tell, but the Cowboys are doing everything right at the moment.

It appeared for a time that Oklahoma State would cruise in the quarters. At one point on the back nine, the Cowboys led in four matches and were all square in the other. But the Aggies dug in.

Star freshman Matthew Wolff put the first point on the board for Oklahoma State with a textbook 4-and-3 win over Dan Erickson. The other matches, though, all became tight down the stretch.

Texas A&M’s Chandler Phillips birdied the par-5 18th to win that hole and send his opening match to extras with Viktor Hovland. As that playoff got underway, the Aggies led in two other matches and was all square in the other.

But Hovland would have two putts to par and win his match against Phillips on that first extra and he did just that. Austin Eckroat, another freshman, put the Cowboys over the top.

Eckroat, tied with Brandon Smith, found the par-5 18th in two while Smith missed the fairway, laid up and came up short of the green for his third. Smith nearly chipped in for birdie, but his ball finished inches right of the cup. Eckroat’s eagle effort came up 3 feet short, but he drained the remainder to win the hole, the match and Oklahoma State its third point.

At that moment, the Cowboys had moved onto the semis.

Oklahoma State will face fifth-seeded Auburn in its Tuesday afternoon semifinal. It was at the semifinal stage in 2011 that the favored Cowboys fell.

This time, Oklahoma State hopes for a different outcome.

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