Keith Mitchell's earliest memory of the Masters as one of the spectators, or patrons as they're called at Augusta National, isn't overly fond.
"I was there when I was probably 10 or 11, and I was sick and the day got rained out," Mitchell said. "I do remember that Masters. That was a terrible one."
Mitchell is hoping to have a much better inaugural experience this week inside the ropes.
The 27-year-old former Baylor School and University of Georgia standout qualified for golf's greatest showcase by winning the Honda Classic in early March by one stroke over Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka. Mitchell soon will become the third Baylor School alum to compete at the Masters, following Luke List and Harris English.
List tied for 33rd as a Vanderbilt University sophomore in 2005. English missed the cut in 2014 and tied for 42nd in 2016.
English and Mitchell were Georgia teammates and got to play Augusta National once a year — "Georgia definitely used that as a recruiting tool," Mitchell said — in December or January. Mitchell admits he was simply in awe when experiencing that annual treat, but he has detailed thoughts now about which holes he can capitalize on and which holes could ruin his week.
Topping his concern list is the par-5 13th.
"If I can hit four good tee shots on 13, I feel like I will be in good shape, just because so much can happen," Mitchell said. "You can hit it in the fairway and go for the green in two. If you pull it left and it catches a tree, you can hit it in the water, and if you don't turn it enough, it's up in the pine straw.
"I feel like that's the most demanding shot on the golf course. You can set yourself up for a birdie or an eagle, or you can make bogey or double (bogey). There might be tougher tee shots on other holes, but there is only one way to execute those. On 13 there are so many options."
Mitchell ranks among the sport's biggest hitters, finishing among the PGA Tour's top 10 last season in driving distance, and is projecting the par-5 eighth hole as where he could experience the most success.
"It's so uphill, and any extra yardage is huge," he said. "You can't see the green, so when you can't see the green and you're trying to go for it in two with a wood, it's a little bit scary. If I can hit a good drive on 8 and have a chance to get to the green in two or at least put it in the right spot to where I have a good third shot to the hole for an up-and-down, that's where my length will play to its biggest advantage."
Mitchell believes Augusta National might be the hardest course to walk on the tour. He sneaked in a practice round late last month and was scheduled, weather permitting, to play nine holes both Monday and today before competing in Wednesday's Par 3 Contest.
Despite having multiple opportunities to practice and prepare, Mitchell is expecting plenty of unknowns once Thursday arrives.
"It's a golf course you can never have enough experience playing, because the conditions can change it so much," Mitchell said. "If it's hot and it's firm, it plays completely different from when it's cold and windy. Every course can be like that, but this one especially because the green speeds are so fast that you're coming in with different clubs.
"When you're coming in with a 5-iron versus a 9-iron, it's a world of difference."
Mitchell, who lists the 15th hole and the pimento cheese sandwich as his Masters favorites, insists he has moved on from the thrill of qualifying for his dream tournament. He does harbor the thought of a Sunday afternoon pairing with Tiger Woods, but now it's about focusing on the realities at hand.
"I've talked about it so much now that it's kind of repetitive," he said. "I know it's my first Masters and I'm excited about it, but I have to get down to business. I don't want to do all this and not play well to where I'm disappointed when I leave.
"I've got to treat this like any other tournament, and that's hard, because it's not like any other tournament, but I am here to win."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.