Keith Mitchell to play rest of his career as a PGA Tour winner

Keith Mitchell fist-bumps a group of children as he heads to the 10th tee during the final round of the Honda Classic on Sunday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

As Keith Mitchell prepared for the 15-foot birdie that would deliver his first PGA Tour triumph at Sunday's Honda Classic, NBC analyst Paul Azinger referred to the moment as a "life-changing putt."

Less than 24 hours later, the 27-year-old former Baylor School and University of Georgia standout already was experiencing a very different world.

"I'm thinking about getting to play in the Masters now, so that's new," Mitchell said Monday afternoon. "That's something you dream about. The other thing is that nobody can ever take this win away now. I've won on the PGA Tour, and I will always have won on the PGA Tour.

"That's so cool to have, and especially to share it with my family. My mom flew down at 5 a.m. on Sunday to make it, and having her there was so neat. She had a feeling I would win. Those are the feelings that really mean a lot."

Building off a rookie year that included four top-10 finishes, $1.64 million in earnings and a No. 67 ranking in the FedEx Cup standings, the big-hitting Mitchell took down golfing royalty at Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, with a 9-under-par 271 that edged Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler by one stroke. Koepka is No. 3 in the world and has won two U.S. Opens and one PGA Championship, while Fowler is No. 7 and has nine professional wins and top-three finishes in all four majors.

Fowler watched Mitchell's winning putt on a television monitor before walking back out to offer his congratulations.

"He just said, 'Wow,' because I don't think he thought I was going to make it," Mitchell said. "He was like, 'Man, that was a heck of a putt,' and I said, 'Well, I was standing on the 17th tee and watched you make a 40-footer to get within one, and once you made that, I knew you were going to birdie 18.'

"I told him, 'The last thing I wanted to do was get into a playoff with you and Brooks.'"

Mitchell admitted he was in a haze during the news conference afterward, and a memorable afternoon turned into a fun and very late evening.

"I went to bed around 3 a.m.," he said. "All my friends and family had stayed with the Probascos at their house, and we all just kind of hung out. Then I probably laid in bed for an hour and a half before I could even think about going to sleep.

"I woke up at 6 wide-eyed and bushy-tailed just ready to think about it some more."

Mitchell spent the first part of Monday playing in the Seminole Pro-Member at the Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, which is about 20 minutes from Palm Beach Gardens. Koepka and Fowler also competed, as did Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, who won last year's Honda Classic in a playoff over Baylor School and Vanderbilt alum Luke List.

The Seminole event did not allow cell phones, and Mitchell savored the quiet time.

Mitchell did receive a congratulatory text from Peyton Manning, but he must quickly turn his attention to Thursday's start of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando. He admitted Monday that may be easier said than done.

"I'm going to have to get a good night's sleep tonight," Mitchell said. "I'm going to have to do a lot of media stuff tomorrow. It's going to be hard to get back in focus, but that's the name of the game. Tiger (Woods) won nine times in a year with all the media obligations he has."

Struggling this week would not be something new for Mitchell, who missed three of four cuts entering the Honda Classic with the one made cut being a 73rd-place finish at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Yet Mitchell will move on having turned an already promising career into something really special as a result of Sunday's victory.

A victory that can never be removed.

"People have asked what it's like to win and having the status to play all these new tournaments," Mitchell said, "but the feeling from the time the ball went in the hole to when I got the ball out of the hole is what it's all worth. It's not about the money. It's not about the fame.

"It's about that feeling of accomplishment. Those 15 seconds are just something I can't describe."

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.