Keith Mitchell's first career PGA Tour start proves rather lucrative


Steve Dykes

From an eagle on his first hole, to a 47-foot birdie on his 72nd hole, Keith Mitchell will remember his first career PGA Tour start fondly. After Monday qualifying for the Valspar Championship (during a Tuesday morning five-man playoff for the last spot), the 25-year-old Tour pro shot par or better in all four rounds, including a Sunday 68, to give him a six-under 278 total, good enough to finish T-11.

The long bomb on the final hole made things particularly interesting for the University of Georgia alum. After finishing his round, Mitchell watched anxiously to see if anybody above him on the leader board—specifically defending champion Charl Schwartzel, who was a seven under with three holes to play—might slip a spot or two and move all the players at six under into a top-10 position. The difference would have been big as a top-10 finish would have automatically qualified him for the PGA Tour’s next open event, the Puerto Rico Open in two weeks.

Unfortunately for Mitchell, the Snake Pit finish at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead course couldn’t snarl anybody; Schwartzel actually made a birdie on the 17th hole to finish at eight under.

Mitchell’s consolation prize: a $144,900 check. Considering he has made a total of $99,163 in 24 career Tour starts and another $44,295 in 14 starts on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica, it was easily the biggest individual payday of the University of Georgia alum’s career.

What else was impressive about Mitchell's performance? Well, he led the field in both strokes gained/putting (2.125), driving distance (309.9 yards) and eagles (2).

Mitchell now returns to the Tour, where he's currently No. 21 on the regular-season money list after a career-best T-5 finish at the Panama Claro Championship in his last start, and having made the cut in all three starts this season.