BAY HILL, Fla. — Keith Mitchell may no longer be an unknown, but the underdog mentality persists.
On Sunday, Mitchell became a champion for the first time as he managed to squeeze past Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler by one stroke on a 15-foot birdie putt, finishing with a final-round 9-under-par to claim victory in the Honda Classic at the PGA National Championship Course.
Following his triumph, the Palm Beach Post ran a headline calling the 27-year-old a “no-name champion.”
“It was definitely a part of me winning,” Mitchell said Tuesday of the headline during a news conference in the media centre in Bay Hill, site of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“It has definitely helped me winning, so I just used it as a potential to keep playing well. So hopefully one day my name will actually be on a headline and it will be familiar.”
If not yet familiar, the University of Georgia graduate’s name is at least in a temporary spotlight, a special space reserved for those who have tasted the success of a PGA Tour win. Even so, he remains level-headed about his newfound circumstances.
“It’s pretty cool to be sitting up here for the first time as a champion,” Mitchell said with a smile. “It really hasn’t sunk in yet, I’ve only had the drive up this morning – I had some alone time – and it was pretty neat to finally let that all come together.”
Prior to the finale of the Honda Classic, Mitchell’s Official World Golf Ranking was 162nd. Now, he’s been bumped up to 68th as he enters the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he’ll be playing against numerous other title-winners, including defending champion Rory McIlroy.
“I’m so happy to be here,” Mitchell said. “I’ve never played here before and I’m really looking forward to it. Obviously, getting to watch all the highlights of Arnold [Palmer] growing up is awesome, and it’s truly special to be a part of the field this week.
“It’s going to be hard to re-focus but I’m going to have to find a way to do it because this is a great field and a great tournament.”