Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. — Keith Mitchell’s first and until now only win as a professional was three years ago, on something called the G Pro Tour.
As is the case with minitour life, hardly anybody was watching and hardly anybody noticed. He earned $5,600.
Those days are long gone. After 97 tries on the PGA Tour, the Web.com Tour and even the Latinoamerica Tour, Mitchell is finally a winner — and had to outslug two of the game’s best players for that long-awaited victory. A birdie on the par-5 18th on Sunday capped Mitchell’s win at The Honda Classic, where he held off Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler.
“It was awesome,” Mitchell said. “I wish that I could come up with a better word than that, but just having a chance to come down the stretch against Rickie Fowler and Brooks, those guys are the best in the world and they’ve been out here proving themselves. And I’m just pleased that I could prove myself against guys like that.”
Mitchell birdied four of his final seven holes, including a 15-footer on the last for a 3-under 67 and a 9-under 271 total. Koepka (66) and Fowler (67) made big charges as well on a wild and windy day at PGA National, yet settled for a tie for second at 8 under, one shot behind Mitchell.
Fowler gave Mitchell a warm embrace when they crossed paths after the final putt.
“Awesome guy,” Fowler said. “Obviously, a good enough player to win.”
Koepka and Fowler both birdied the 18th. Fowler actually birdied three of his final four holes, including a 45-footer on the 17th.
But Mitchell didn’t waver in the wind.
He was on the upslope of a fairway bunker about 205 yards from the pin for his second shot at the par-5 18th. All he could do from there was hit a pop-up, leaving him with a wedge in for his third.
That checked up about 15 feet below the hole, giving him a putt to win. He made it, pumped his fist and waited for the final group of Wyndham Clark and Vijay Singh to finish about five minutes later.
“Everybody dreams about having that putt on the 18th hole to win a tournament,” Mitchell said. “And I had it today.”
Ryan Palmer (63) and Lucas Glover (66) tied for fourth at 7 under. And for a while, it looked like Palmer might steal the tournament.
Palmer was tied for 48th after the opening round, tied for 51st after 36 holes and tied for 39th when the final round began. But he started with four straight birdies on the way to going out in 29— the first player to ever do that in a final round at the Honda. He rolled in a 25-footer from just off the green for birdie at the par-4 16th, then stuck his tee shot to 6 feet and made birdie at the par-3 17th.
When he finished at 2:32 p.m., he was two shots back and the final group was on the fifth hole.
“I’ve got an outside chance, for sure,” Palmer said when he was done.
About two hours later, he was in the outright lead. Not long after that, he was in a six-way tie atop the leaderboard. And his chance lasted until 5:07 p.m., when Koepka tapped in for birdie on the last and took the clubhouse lead at 8 under.
Koepka was good. Fowler was good.
Mitchell was just one swing better.
“It was good for the fans,” said Koepka, the Palm Beach County native and two-time defending U.S. Open champion. “They got what they wanted, a good tournament, two of the bigger names coming down the stretch and having a chance to win. That’s what this golf course will do.”
Singh, the 56-year-old who was bidding to become the oldest winner of a PGA Tour event ever— Sam Snead was 52 when he won the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open— was right there until the end. Singh, who hasn’t won on this tour since 2008, settled for outright sixth after a 70.
Clark, the third-round leader, was two shots clear of everybody when he made an uphill putt from just right of the green on the par-4 4th, that birdie making him 9 under. But he made bogeys on four of his next eight holes, falling off the pace.
Mitchell is expected to climb into the top 70 of the world ranking. He was No. 162 entering the Honda, and had never been above No. 130.
That’s just one of many things that’ll change now.
His biggest check as a pro was for $400,400 last year when he finished third at the Byron Nelson. This check is more than triple that— $1,224,000. He’s going to the Masters. He’s exempt for two more seasons. He climbed into the top 20 in the season’s money list and FedEx Cup Points rankings.
And perhaps the biggest prize is this: Mitchell will never again have to wonder if he can win.
“Having status for a couple more years, putting myself in a really good position for the Tour Championship, getting to play in the four majors or some of them I guess … I don’t even know what it gets me,” Mitchell said. “It’s awesome.”
Sung Hyun Park birdied five of her opening seven holes, added four birdies on the back nine and closed with an 8-under 64 for a two-shot victory in the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore.
Park began the final round at Sentosa Golf Club four shots behind Ariya Jutanugarn, the No. 1 player in women’s golf. Jutanugarn closed with a 75.
Minjee Lee was tied for the lead briefly on the front nine and shot 69 to finish alone in second, her second straight runner-up finish..
Park won for the sixth time on the LPGA Tour.
Mark O’Meara seized control with five birdies on the front nine and closed with a 7-under 66 for a four-shot victory in the Cologuard Classic in Tucson, Ariz., his first victory on the PGA Tour Champions in more than eight years.
Darren Clarke holed a 50-foot birdie putt on the 18th for a 68 to tie for second with Willie Wood, Kirk Triplett and Scott McCarron, who each had 69.
O’Meara, who finished 17-under 202, had gone 152 starts on the PGA Tour Champions without winning.
Former baseball star John Smoltz (Lansing Waverly) tied for 53rd at 1 over in his tour debut, closing with a 73. The 51-year-old Hall of Fame pitcher got into the field on a sponsor exemption.
Kurt Kitayama had six birdies and an eagle to salvage a 1-under 71 in the weather-delayed third round in the morning, and then birdied two of the last three holes in the afternoon for a 70 and a one-shot victory in the Oman Open.
The 26-year-old American won for the second time this season on the European Tour.
Americans now have won six of the 12 official events on the European Tour this year. Kitayama and Dustin Johnson (Saudi International, Mexico Championship) have two victories each. Bryson DeChambeau (Dubai Desert Classic) and David Lipsky (Alfred Dunhill Championship) were the other winners.