Baylor alum Mitchell credits analytics for best start to PGA Tour season

There have been multiple moments in Keith Mitchell's PGA Tour career when he positioned himself to generate significant headlines.

Sinking a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to win the 2019 Honda Classic by a stroke over Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler. Topping Tiger Woods during their third-round pairing at the 2020 PGA Championship. Playing with Rory McIlroy in the final group of last year's Wells Fargo Championship.

The former Baylor School standout hasn't quite produced a round or a tournament result to catch the national eye this season, but he isn't complaining.

"Honestly, it's been the best start to a year other than the win in 2019," Mitchell said. "It's hard not to count the win, but I've had a more consistent year than in 2019. It's definitely been an awesome run with a lot of top-15s, and I felt like before that I was either a feast or famine guy.

"This year I've been more consistent, which could lead to a lot better result at the end of the season."

Mitchell turned in his most impressive tour stretch from late November through late February, when he collected five top-12 finishes in six tournaments - tying for 12th at the RSM Classic, tying for seventh at the Sony Open, missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance (won by fellow Baylor School alum Luke List), tying for 12th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, tying for 10th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and tying for ninth at the Honda Classic.

His March was hardly disappointing either, as the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder tied for 13th at The Players Championship and went 1-1-1 in his four-man pod at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play, which is a 64-player event based off world rankings.

Mitchell is 33rd in the latest FedEx Cup standings, having dropped from 30th last week. He was passed by Jordan Spieth, Corey Conners and Billy Horschel, who each made the cut at this past weekend's RBC Heritage, which Spieth won to vault from 47th in the standings to 11th.

Finishing among the top 30 each year results in a trip to the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta, which guarantees playing all four majors the following year as well as the WGC events. Former Baylor and University of Georgia teammate Harris English has qualified for the Tour Championship twice, with his second occurring last season, and Mitchell is giving it his best run with a reshaped way of thinking.

"Before, I always felt like putting was my weakness, so I just decided to aim at more flags," Mitchell said, "which inevitably put more pressure on my putting for par, because I would miss more greens. It sounds like I'm more conservative, which is not necessarily the case. It's just smarter and percentage-based."

Mitchell earned full-time status on the PGA Tour for the 2017-18 season and was quickly recognized for his monstrous drives, leading the tour his rookie year with a driver swing speed of 124.8 miles per hour. That his lone career triumph so far is remembered more for his putting can be cause for both pride and amusement for Mitchell, but his new consistency approach is paying dividends.

His earnings this season already have topped $2 million, with the roughly $2.4 million he made in 2018-19 now well within reach, and life off the course is also going well. Mitchell not only turned 30 in January but also married the former Claire Watson in Hawaii just days before his seventh-place showing in the Sony Open.

Mitchell appears to be moving forward married to a lot of analytics as well.

"There are a lot of stat guys on tour who break down golf courses and shot dispersion and things that I've never really learned in my short career, so I sat down with one of them and kind of analyzed my game," Mitchell said. "We truly look at a golf hole as a statistical problem instead of, 'Oh, this feels right,' or, 'I think I like the way this looks to my eye.'

"It was explained to me like going to Vegas and playing the best odds. You don't just emotionally bet on a 12 against a queen because you feel like a 9 is coming out. That was a good analogy to me on the golf course. I'm just trying to be more consistent, which gives you more chances to be at the top of the leaderboard and more chances to win."

Mitchell hasn't played since the WGC Dell Technologies but is teaming again this week with Brandt Snedeker at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans. The two got within a shot of the lead during the final round last year before finishing two strokes back and in a tie for fourth.

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.