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May 9, 2018

Keith Mitchell

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

THE MODERATOR: Have you thought about playing in this event a long time? I know you live in Sea Island down the road, kind of a closer event for you. Obviously one of the biggest events in golf.

KEITH MITCHELL: I played in the Junior Players was the last time I actually played this golf course, so that was a long time ago, but it was a lot of fun. It was run kind of like this, just on a smaller scale, but it's definitely the biggest tournament I'll play in so far in my career. It's -- I mean, a lot of us consider it one of the majors almost, so it's definitely the biggest purse, so it's something I've obviously dreamed about forever, and I'm glad that I'm finally able to sit here.

THE MODERATOR: What's been your impressions of the golf course so far?

KEITH MITCHELL: It's a lot tighter than I remembered around the greens. The greens seem -- I don't know if they have made them smaller but they sure seem smaller, so there's a lot of places where you can short-side yourself, which you don't want to do out here, so we're really working on trying to hit the middle of the green, trying to find the putts that are into the green and get some good lines off the fairway, but it's definitely a ball-striker's golf course.

Q. Where were you and what were you doing when you found out that you were going to play?
KEITH MITCHELL: I was actually eating breakfast and I got a text message from one of the rules officials, Jim Duncan, and said you're in, and I had not got the official word yet, so I responded, no, I'm not. And he goes, yes, you are. And as soon as I got that text message, I got the phone call. So I was just eating breakfast, getting ready to go practice and play the back nine, just in case, and then when I did get the call, I was able to play the back nine with a little bit more adrenaline and excitement.

Q. Did you play practice rounds Monday-Tuesday or were those nine?
KEITH MITCHELL: I didn't, I -- well, I played nine holes Tuesday. I came down Tuesday morning, just a short drive down from Sea Island. Played the front nine yesterday and the back nine today.

Q. Is your preparation any different in a week where you're not exactly sure if you're going to tee it up or if you try and go about it the same way, maybe convince yourself it's the same process, even though you won't get might not get to tee it up on Thursday?
KEITH MITCHELL: I would like to say it's exactly the same, but when I was driving down on Tuesday, I was almost reluctant because this is such a big tournament that no one's going to pull out unless there's something like they're sick or they're injured, and you don't wish that on anyone. So we were kind of driving down yesterday and thinking, well, I guess I'll go play some practice rounds, but then I realized just being a first alternate as a rookie at THE PLAYERS is such a huge honor, so it was fun yesterday. This is my fifth week in a row, so it was definitely a little lighter preparation, especially considering I didn't think I was going to play, but still, we played all 18 holes and took our notes on the course. I would just say probably a little less time on the practice range and the putting green.

Q. When you played here as a junior, when you got to 17, do you remember how many people were around the green?
KEITH MITCHELL: My parents and probably the kids' parents that were in the group. So not -- I mean, we had just the caddie competition today and there was thousands probably, just on a Wednesday, which is incredible.

Q. Can you talk about the difference not just playing that hole but just to looking at it with a crowd versus not having a crowd?
KEITH MITCHELL: I remember the green feeling somewhat big in the Junior Players because I remember having a wedge, and you can kind of see the whole green, but now with the grandstands surrounding everything, it make it just stick out, just the flag. So your depth perception is a lot different with grandstands all the way around. So that's definitely different, and it's harder to judge the wind down inside that little valley, which makes it seem harder, as well, because you're kind of -- if you throw up grass, it might be swirling kind of in the bowl, so you have to look up high above the top and see.

Q. When you get to 17 tomorrow, does it add pressure knowing that Kevin hit the green?
KEITH MITCHELL: You know, the rumor has it that it was just an easy 3 for Kev out there, so if I can take an easy 3 all four days, I will 100 percent do it.

Q. And it's been a good rookie season; you've had some chances. You were in contention last week. What's been the biggest key to just having a good rookie season, locking up your card, playing well early? Why do you think you've had success in your first go-around?
KEITH MITCHELL: I wish I had the secret. That's a tough question. But it's being comfortable, being optimistic, and not worrying each tournament like it's the last. Because we do have, even as a rookie, worst-case scenario getting in 15, 20 events. So just because you don't have a good fall and you don't reshuffle high, it doesn't mean you're not going to play well the rest of the season. So that was a tough part. I had a pretty tough fall, and I was low in the reshuffle list, so you start feeling like you're playing from behind. And when you do that, as long as you don't put too much pressure on yourself and count each tournament like it's the last, just kind of ease it out, you know you got a lot of tournaments to play, play your best, and by the end of the season you just add it up. Fortunately we have played really well last couple months and so they're adding up quick.

Q. Was it then more of like a mental thing or something in your game that improved that allowed you to contend at Dominican and Houston, and what were you doing better that got you into contention?
KEITH MITCHELL: I mean, when you play better you're physically doing what you need to do, it's being able to execute. And playing the WEB.COM TOUR helped just playing in the physical aspects of the game. You know what your weaknesses are, and we have been working on those for years now, so once we got on TOUR, we felt we had the game to be here, but it's having the ability to execute under pressure, execute in front of thousands of more people, more prize money, more FedExCup points. So that's a lot of stuff that's hard to get comfortable with as a rookie.

So that was -- after Dominican and Houston, I feel like I got a little bit better, more comfortable in those situations, and that's helped just have better finishes.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks for coming in.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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