Honda Classic

Honda Classic

Honda Classic
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Winner: Keith Mitchell

If they’d held an election coming down the final round at the Honda Classic, Keith Mitchell would have won the Mr. Absolutely No Chance title in a landslide.

Consider that on the tough par-70 PGA National he had come up against the likes of Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler, and as to his credentials, well: He had won once on the G Pro Tour, a minitour, but otherwise, in an aggregate of 96 previous starts, his bests were a second on the Latinoamerica Tour, a third on the Korn Ferry Tour and a second on the PGA Tour, where, already in 2019, he’d missed three cuts in five starts. The immediate future held little promise for Mitchell, 27, a former University of Georgia player.

Then the next thing anyone knew in the Honda, Mitchell was saying “coming down the stretch against Rickie Fowler and Brooks … I’m just pleased that I could prove myself against guys like that.” And with great theater. Mitchell birdied four of his final seven holes, including the last on a clutch 15-foot putt, for a one-stroke win over Koepka and Fowler.

“Everyone dreams about having that putt on the 18th to win,” Mitchell said, “and I had it today.” Mitchell opened with a 68 and trailed by four, shared the lead with a 66 in the second round, trailed by one with a par 70 in the third, then closed with a flourish for a 67 and a nine-under 271 for the one-stroke win. Fowler closed with a 67 and Koepka a 66 to tie at 272.

Until that closing rush, Mitchell was getting little attention. He was four behind Jhonattan Vegas (64) in the first round, and tied Korea’s Sungjae Im (64) for the halfway lead at six-under 134. Then came a formidable test and a scramble in the third. First, Wyndham Clark, 25, seeking his first tour win, took the lead with a 67 for a seven-under 203. A stroke behind were Korea’s Kyoung-Hoon Lee (68), Mitchell and Vijay Singh, 56, hoping to surpass Sam Snead as the oldest winner on the tour. “I’m physically quite capable of doing it,” Singh said.

The fates broke perfectly for Mitchell in the final round. Clark had increased his lead to two, then bogeyed four of six holes from No. 7. Lee could manage only a one-over 71, and Singh’s bid for history sputtered out in a 70. Mitchell did not start the final round like a winner-about-to-be. Not with those two quick bogeys. Two birdies got him even through the turn, but he bogeyed the 11th out of the rough. Then Keith Mitchell’s time had come.

He came home with inspired golf, mastering all putts. He birdied 12, 13, 15 and 18 on putts of 11, 17, four and 15 feet. Someone asked him how it felt, finally, to win. Mitchell raced through the language, looking for the words to describe the feelings overwhelming him. But the words don’t exist. Then he found a way to say it all. “It was awesome,” he said.


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