In 2003 the NCAA Division I men’s golf championships were held at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla. In describing the difficulty of the Tom Fazio-designed layout some players compared it to a trip through golf hell.

Although those players were not yet seasoned pros the list of current touring professionals is quite extensive. Georgia Tech’s Troy Matteson’s best round over the four days was 2-over 74. He tied for 39th. Wake Forest’s Bill Haas threw in an 82 in the second round of his tie for 26th. Clemson’s D.J. Trahan tied for 22nd at 11-over par. Florida’s Camillo Villegas shot 7-over 79 in Round 2.

After shooting a third round 60, Kentucky’s John Holmes shot 80. Oklahoma State’s Hunter Mahan finished eighth, six shots behind Arizona State’s Alejandro Canizares, the only player to finish under par for the week. Arizona’s Ricky Barnes tied for sixth, five shots out of medalist honors. He shot 68 at Augusta National on Thursday. Brandt Snedeker was 12-over par. The Vanderbilt graduate shot 69 on the first day of The Masters.

Clemson won the team title, shooting 39-over par. The winning team score in 2004, at Hot Springs, Va., was 57 strokes lower.

“That field [in 2003] was extremely talented,” said Oklahoma State head coach Mike McGraw, an assistant to Mike Holder at the time. “There weren’t many low scores which was a bit surprising considering the wind really didn’t blow as much as usual. Somebody will throw up a low number but it’s hard to do over two or three days sometimes. Par will still be a pretty good score.”

Karsten Creek was voted Best New Public Course by Golf Digest in 1994. The course has undergone some physical and cosmetic changes since 2003. The 2011 NCAA Championships are set to be held here from May 31-June 5. Additional tee boxes have been added to Nos. 8, 10 and 16. Another noticeable change will be the removal of 2700 cedar trees, many of them lining fairways.

“It opened things up a bit,” McGraw said. “Anybody who’s seen or played the course knows that on most holes you miss the fairway there’s a good chance the ball is gone, lost. You still don’t want to miss fairways but there will be more shots made from outside the fairway this time around."

Those who played in 2003 will certainly remember a rough that led to bogey on most holes. The thickness is expected to be around the same consistency. In 2003 the tournament format was four rounds of stroke play. The format was changed in 2009, moving to 54 holes of stroke play with the top eight teams then advancing to a match-play tournament over three days.

At that ‘09 tourney Oklahoma State, led by Rickie Fowler, was 13 shots better than Arizona State in stroke play. But the Cowboys fell 3-2 to Georgia in the quarterfinals. Texas A&M beat Arkansas 3-2 for the championship. The Aggies and Georgia tied for seventh in stroke play.

Last season in Chattanooga, the Cowboys again turned in the best three-round total in stroke play. But after beating Stanford and Oregon, Oklahoma State lost to Augusta State in the title match.

“The new format shouldn’t change things,” said McGraw. “The best didn’t always win in the stroke play format either. Everybody knows what they have to do. What the [match-play format] does do is open the field up once you get to that final eight. Teams know that if they can get into the match play that they are going to have a chance. Is there a disadvantage? No. If you have the best team you should win. You have to find a way to put it together that week, play your best golf.”

With the conditions, bogey might win its fair share of holes during match play.

The latest Golfweek Collegiate Rankings show Oklahoma State at No. 1 with UCLA, Alabama, Georgia Tech and Florida rounding out the top five. Individually, the Cowboys’ Peter Uihlein, the 2010 U.S. Amateur champion, is ranked No. 1. He shot even-par 72 on Thursday at The Masters.

UCLA’s Patrick Cantlay is No. 2; Stanford’s Andrew Yun is No. 3; OSU’sKevin Tway is No. 4; and Florida’s Bank Vongvanij is No. 5.

One thing will remain the same from 2003, regardless of who tees up a golf ball: The 471-yard, par-4 17th hole will be a monster, especially if the wind blows.