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Keith Mitchell Causes Honda Classic Upset

Keith Mitchell reacts after holing the winning putt on the 72nd green at PGA National in Florida.
The narrative to start the day was about the possibility of the oldest Tour winner. As the day drew to a close it looked like we would see a playoff between two modern giants of the game. But in the end it was a virtual unknown who claimed the Honda Classic in Florida.

Keith Mitchell, the 162nd ranked player in the world, crushed the storylines of 56-year-old Vijay Singh and World Top 10 stalwarts Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler with a clutch 15-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole.

Mitchell birdied four of his last seven holes, including the par-3 15th which starts the infamous ‘Bear Trap’ at PGA National, to squeak out a four-round total of 9-under-par, one better than both Koepka and Fowler.

In a riveting final hour of play it was the 27-year-old from Tennessee who stood up under severe pressure to ink a David v Goliath story and grab a first PGA Tour title.

Ryan Palmer and Lucas Glover shared fourth place two shots behind Mitchell, Palmer courtesy of a scintillating Sunday 63, while Singh was alone in sixth with a creditable even par 72.

Matt Jones was the best of the Australians after a disappointing final round of 4-over 74 to drop from just outside the top 10 to T36, two ahead of Cameron Davis whose final round 73 saw him to a T59 result.

They were the only two Australians to play the weekend, the more fancied pair of Adam Scott and Cameron Smith missing the cut by one and five shots respectively.

Curtis Luck and Rod Pampling also found the opening rounds hard going and were well outside the number required to play the weekend.

At the top of the leaderboard, Mitchell, playing his second year on Tour, began the day one shot behind rookie Wyndham Clark and started badly with back to back bogeys to fall well behind.

But on a PGA National layout that wreaks havoc with scorecards as the afternoon winds pick up, he did well not to panic and ground out two birdies to the turn to head for home still in the mix.

He maintained his composure after a bogey at the 11th then surprised everyone, including quite possibly himself, with a four-birdie run for home over the much more difficult holes in the most testing of the conditions.

With Fowler and Koepka both in the clubhouse at 8-under, he knew what he needed to do entering the famed three-hole stretch known as the Bear Trap and delivered in spades.

A birdie at the all water carry par-3 15th drew him level and pars at both 16 and another all water carry one-shotter at 17 had him standing on the par-5 last needing a birdie to win.

A drive that found the fairway bunker seemed to have dashed his chances but after laying up to a good yardage he wedged to 15 feet then holed the putt-of-a-lifetime to seal the win.

In a season that has been lacklustre at best to this point, it was a breakout week for Mitchell who missed the cut in his previous two starts.

A two-year exemption and a place in the field at Augusta National in April are just part of the reward for his good play, Mitchell now marking himself as a player to watch in coming years.

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