Keith Mitchell wins maiden title at Honda Classic


Keith Mitchell carded four birdies over his final seven holes to close out his maiden PGA Tour victory over Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka at The Honda Classic

Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler gave it everything on a dramatic final day at PGA National but it was Keith Mitchell who holed a 15-footer for birdie on the final green to finish one shot clear of the duo at 9-under-par with a final round 67.

“It’s not even close to sinking in,” 27-year-old Mitchell told Sky Sports after his round. “I don’t expect it to, I don’t want it to, it’s just awesome. Playing like I did down the stretch is just unbelievable.”

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Having just missed a putt for a final-round 62 it was Ryan Palmer who seemed like he could be the man to beat after setting the clubhouse target at 7-under-par. He started a few hours ahead of the leaders and as the winds picked up and players began to drop shots, he remained in contention until the last few holes of the tournament. 

One of those players to struggle in the weather was third round leader Wyndham Clark, who started strongly with birdies on two of his first four holes but started to fall away after back-to-back bogeys from the 7th.

On the other hand Mitchell, who had held a share of the 36-hole lead, began the day one-shot adrift Clark but a horror start left him scrambling after missing par putts of 13 feet and 8 feet on his opening two holes. 

He responded well, nearly holing out for eagle on the par-five 3rd hole to pull a shot back before adding his second birdie of the day on the ninth. By the 13th tee, Mitchell had gone bogey-birdie to join a group of six-players tied for second place behind Palmer, and within the space of just 10 minutes another birdie saw him join of a six-way tie for the lead at 7-under-par. 

It was then that Lucas Glover signed for the same total as Palmer, but as Vijay Singh and Kyoung-Hoon Lee fell backwards, World No.3 Brooks Koepka took advantage of the closing holes to move ahead with a four-under-par 66.

Koepka became the first player to set the clubhouse lead at eight-under-par thanks to birdies at both 16 and 18, but Mitchell’s near tap-in birdie on the par-three 15th put him alongside the three-time major champion with a few holes in hand. 

Rickie Fowler began to catch fire too, following up a birdie on the 15th with a hole out from 44 feet on the 17th to get to 7-under, before adding another birdie on the 18th to join Koepka at the top. 

It was a day that could have seen Vijay Singh became the oldest PGA Tour winner in history, but it wasn’t to be as he faded out of the running over the closing stretch. The 56-year-old navigated past a shaky start to put himself in contention, and came to the final hole of the Bear Trap just one shot behind Koepka and Fowler. But he opted not to play agressively, and ultimately paid the price of finding the water with a bogey that dropped him in to solo sixth at six-under-par. 

With Singh and his playing partner Clark out of the running, the fate of the tournament was left to Mitchell, who had to par the par-five 18th to force a playoff between two of the highest ranked players in the field, or make birdie to win. 

Mitchell is known by his peers as a big hitter, but he found the bunker from the tee and was forced to lay up of the par-five 18th hole. He put his approach to 15 feet, and hit a brilliant putt to secure his first PGA Tour title – a feat all the more impressive given that he headed to The Honda Classic ranked 218th on Tour for SG: Putting. 

As for what was going through his head at the time of his putt? He was just trying to focus on what was going on. 

“I was trying to focus on what was going on,” Mitchell said. “My mind started wandering there a little bit at the end … and then I hit a great putt.”

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