ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Keith Mitchell hits from a bunker on the tenth hole during the first round of the Honda Classic golf tournament, Thursday, March 18, 2021, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Keith Mitchell admits he had a bit of a rocky relationship with the Masters this past weekend.

Apparently qualifying for golf's ultimate stage and then failing to do so can have that effect. The former Baylor School and University of Georgia standout earned an invite to the 2019 Masters by winning the Honda Classic several weeks earlier and shot a 1-under-par 287 at Augusta National, but he hasn't made it back.

Missing out last November had him longing for the opportunity to return, with this year's tournament stinging the 29-year-old a bit more.

"We are not divorced, but we are very separated," Mitchell said with a laugh. "We're not living in the same house. Until I'm back in there and can tackle that beast, I am going to hold a grudge against it even though it did nothing to me. I'm the only one at fault here.

"After playing in it and then not playing in it, it's kind of bittersweet watching it."

One of Mitchell's former Baylor and Georgia teammates, Harris English, finished tied for 21st at even par with Victor Hovland, Shane Lowry, Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas, with each pocketing $119,600. The Baylor trio of English, Mitchell and Luke List have competed in a combined five Masters tournaments now and have made the cut four times, with only English's first trip in 2014 resulting in an early exit.

List finished tied for 33rd in the 2005 tournament, when he was a Vanderbilt University sophomore.

Mitchell entered the 2019 Masters on a roll, with his Honda Classic title accompanied by a sixth-place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He would earn an eighth-place showing at the Wells Fargo less than a month after his Masters appearance, but the top-10 finishes dried up.

After earning a stout seven top-10 finishes during the 2018 and 2019 seasons combined, Mitchell has only attained one since, which has resulted in a FedEx Cup ranking of 67th in 2018 and 50th in 2019 dipping to 148th currently. His last outing yielded a tie for 17th at the Valero Texas Open, which took place the week before Hideki Matsuyama's groundbreaking win at Augusta.

"I would say my game is trending back upward quickly," Mitchell said. "I played well in Hawaii to start the year. I was in the top-20 on the back nine Sunday at Bay Hill, and I was in the top-25 after two rounds at the Honda and then finished top-20 in San Antonio.

"I really feel like I'm back on an upswing."

Mitchell's mood is back on the upswing as well after a difficult past few months concerning the mental side to his sport.

"It was hard during COVID when we restarted, because there were no fans and there was no energy," he said. "It actually felt like a job for the first time in my life, and that is never what golf has been to me. Now I'm starting to play better and starting to get more momentum and confidence, and then you put fans on top of that and a lot of courses that I like playing, and it's kind of just snowballing hopefully in the right direction. My course management is a lot better and my short game is a lot better than it was two or three years ago, but I would say my patience level started dropping.

"When your expectations start rising like they had in 2018 and 2019, you expect to do better in 2020. It's like what Jordan Spieth went through until recently. How does it get any better than winning 12 times by the age of 25? When you stop winning, you put more pressure on yourself. You've got to have patience, and you've got to accept that you may not play well but that you can't panic, which may be the hardest thing to do as a professional golfer."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT