PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Keith Mitchell's victory at the Honda Classic afforded him a lot things. A Masters invitation, a $1,224,000 check, a shiny new trophy, a spot in the upcoming WGC-Match Play, just to name a few. But above all, it afforded him patience.
Exercising patience is not an easy thing to do in professional golf, a game that often forces you to force the issue, especially when you're struggling. Mitchell, who missed three of his previous four cuts entering the Honda, no longer has to do that thanks to his win. That could help explain his recent stretch of form, which included a T-6 last week at Bay Hill and a seven-under 65 on Friday at TPC Sawgrass, where Mitchell is making his first start in the Players Championship.
Well, that, and the Bermuda greens at these Florida courses Mitchell seems to be so fond of.
"My putter's definitely better," said Mitchell, who ranks 183rd in strokes-gained/putting for the year. "More confident on the greens with the Bermuda. It's a big difference for me. It's a lot more comfort in my reads and my speed. That's really it. I felt like I was playing okay in the West Coast, but never got anything going. It's a little bit easier to have some patience out here this week when you know that you've already got a victory under your belt and you got a lot of tournaments coming up."
Mitchell wasn't rolling them in from deep all day, but he made all the putts that he had to make. His first four birdies all came from seven feet or less, and he saved his best stroke for the short par-4 12th, where he drove the green with a 3-wood and dropped a 13-footer for eagle.
"Today was a perfect number," said Mitchell. "Hit a 3-wood a little down off the right so you can actually aim it at the right bunker, and just hit a straight shot and let the wind take it to flag, so we did that and hit a perfect one, and it looked look it rolled out. We never saw it by the flag, but when it was 15, 20 feet past the hole I was very, very pleased."
He followed that with another birdie at the par-3 13th after hitting his tee shot to 10 feet, then tacked on one final birdie at the par-5 16th to match his low round of the season. He's now shot 68 or lower in six of his last 10 rounds, indicating that his breakthrough victory has made him the furthest thing from complacent.
"I just think when you're playing good you want to keep rolling. I'm going to have plenty of times I'm not playing good and it usually goes in stretches, so we're playing good and we want to keep playing as much as we can, and fortunately we got a bunch of big tournaments this time of year and so hopefully I can just keep going."
Stamina will be key, as Mitchell is going on his third straight full week of golf. Luckily, his position on the leader board at eight under, currently tied for seventh, will allow him to hit the snooze button a few extra times.
"I'm definitely a little tired, but I get to sleep in tomorrow and have a decently late tee time, so two more days and we'll see what we can do."