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March 5, 2019

Keith Mitchell

Orlando, Florida

JOHN BUSH: Like to welcome Keith Mitchell into the interview room here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He's making his first start at this event. Keith, congratulations once again on the win at the Honda Classic. If we can just get your comments on winning and then also what the last couple days have been like.

KEITH MITCHELL: Well thanks for -- it's pretty cool to be sitting up here for the first time as a champion and it really hasn't sunk in yet, I've only had -- I had the drive up this morning and I had some alone time and it was pretty neat to finally let that all kind of come together. Made a few phone calls to some family and friends this morning that I really needed to make. Received thousands of text messages, legit thousand, and finally got all those taken care of. I'm so thankful for all the messages, every single one of them. I have a personal connection with people and with everybody that sent them and I'm just so happy that they all reached out and congratulated me and with all the support. But now it's a new week, it's a new week at the Arnold Palmer, I'm so happy to be here, never played here before and really looking forward to it. Obviously getting to watch all the highlights of Arnold growing up is awesome and it's truly special to be part of this field this week. So it's going to be hard to refocus, but I'm going to have to find a way to do it because this is a great field and a great tournament.

JOHN BUSH: We'll go right into questions.

Q. How much did you watch highlights of the last putt and do you find yourself watching highlights of any tournament you play?
KEITH MITCHELL: Yes and yes. After all the media was done, on Sunday night, we went back to the house I was staying with and it was so great to have some of my fellow competitors hang around and change the travel plans to celebrate with me. Brandon Harkins, Joel Dahmen, JT Poston, a bunch of their caddies and my caddie Pete -- and my mom flew down from Chattanooga that morning. She got a five o'clock flight just to come down and watch me because she just had that feeling. And we all went back to the house, the broadcast was on again, they had recorded it and we kind of were watching here and there, listening to music talking, but then when it got to 15 everybody was like, all right, let's watch this, I want to hear what they're saying, because everybody that was at the house was out on the golf course, so nobody had seen it. They had all seen it from different angles on the course, from the stands, cheering, and so it was fun to be able to listen to what Dan and Azinger were saying in the booth they were very complimentary, couldn't thank those guys enough for saying nice things. And it was really cool to see my reaction on TV. It was -- I never thought I would be there, but it looks like it happened.

Q. Did you take as much umbrage to the no name champion headline as others did?
KEITH MITCHELL: Not really. It was definitely a part of me winning, it definitely helped me winning. So I just kind of used it as a potential to keep playing well to hopefully one day my name might be on the headline and it will be familiar. So I definitely didn't take any negative light to it. A lot of my friends and family were texting me about it and it was fine. The context that it was written, it sounds like was in good light and that's all that matters. I've probably said things a hundred times that came off the wrong way and so it's great. That part of this story is an important part because that's what helped me play well on the weekend and so I think it's kind of cool that it ended up happening that way.

Q. There was a lot of things that came with that with a large check and whatnot, but now that it's sunk in, what are some of the best by products of that for you? As you move forward, do you think, the win.
KEITH MITCHELL: That's so cool to think about everything that, all the doors that have been opened for me after winning. But the best thing about winning was the feeling from the time that putt went in the hole and the time I got it out of the hole. Like that 15, 20 seconds is the feeling that every single player on the PGA TOUR is out here for. I mean you can say you're out here for all these different things and the fame and the fortunate and everything, but I learned after winning that the coolest part about it is that raw emotion from the time the ball goes in the hole until the time you got it out. And you could see it. I just was so, the adrenaline -- I was just so jacked up. People kept bringing up, oh, you got this, you got this. All that's great, but every time I think about what I got out of winning, it was that feeling for those 15 seconds.

Q. At the winner's presser last weekend you talked about Davis has been a father figure influence and also you talked about the surrounding yourself with good people makes you a better player. Just I was wondering if you can just give a few examples of that mentorship, that Davis and also Zach helped you on and off the golf course, just a few examples.
KEITH MITCHELL: I think Davis started that whole kind of vibe at Sea Island and everybody else has bought into it. So now you're getting money toward by everyone down there. Brian Harman always gives me a hard time because he is like, dude, you got all this game and all this talent, like what are you doing? Like, come on. And he gives me a kick in the butt to start playing better. That's one example from Brian. And then Zach and J Byrd are so great about off the course. Like on the course is just a part of their lives and they have great families and great friends and just great role models on and off the course. They have helped me a lot in my life in that way. A guy like Harris English who I went to high school with and then went to Georgia with and then went to Sea Island with, he's been part of my life since I've been 12 years old. He's been part of my life for more than half of my life and helped me in golf every step of the way because he's always been one step ahead of me. He was always -- he won a state title before I did, he won at Georgia before I did, he won on the PGA TOUR before I did. So he's always one step ahead and so it's so easy to learn from a guy like that who's done everything that you're trying to did. And that's the main reason I went to Sea Island is because when you surround yourself with people better than yourself then there's no way your on a not going to get better.

Q. First question is going to be how do you approach this tournament differently than any other and then also walking the halls here, walking the course, this is hallowed grounds, how does it feel being out here this week?
KEITH MITCHELL: Like I said, I've never been here before, I've been to the parking lot and I've been to the media center, so I don't know. The last time I played Bay Hill was in an AJGA event when I was probably 16, 15 or 16 maybe. I don't know the ex exactly how old I was. But it was a long time ago. So it's been 10 years. I'll never forget I played in some AJGA's before I felt like I knew all the guys, and I played with a kid named Patrick Cantlay that week and it was his first tournament outside of the State of California. And he didn't hit it anywhere I was hitting it -- I think I was hitting my hybrid past his driver. It was like, who is this kid. And then he ends up getting third, ends up being one of the best junior players in the world, best college players in the world and wins on the PGA TOUR. And I think that's what's so great about the AJGA and growing up, but that's my last memory from here at Bay Hill. I wish I was able to play when Arnold was here and he was roaming the halls, but I know his legacy is still here and he's still here in spirit.

Q. Was winning as satisfying as you always thought it might be or hoped it would be?

Q. Just winning a PGA TOUR event, was it as satisfying as you pictured?
KEITH MITCHELL: More. And the reason is, is I was doing it for what I feel like personally were the right reasons. I was doing it for the love that I had played golf forever and loved competing. And I grew up playing against one of my best friends in the world, since I was in preschool and he drove down to see me yesterday and he watched me and it just brought back all those memories of competition and golf. When you just break it down to competition and golf, that's the best reason why I think most guys are out here on the PGA TOUR. Because you look at a guy like Tiger Woods he's got all the money and the fame in the world but he keeps coming back and keeps playing and keeps competing. That's because he loves competing and he loves golf. Those 15 seconds from the time the ball went in the hole and the time I got it out of the hole it was all those emotions in one second. So I'll play out here as long as they will let me, as long as I'm exempt, just to keep going back for that feeling.

Q. Jumping ahead a little bit but can you give me your thoughts on the Masters?
KEITH MITCHELL: I haven't really thought about it as much as thankfully one of my best friends is very connected with Augusta and we have been trying to talk about some arrangements. Just because he's on top of it before I was. He was the one telling me I needed to get on it. But first thing I thought about when I won was being able to play on the PGA TOUR for two and a half more years, minimum. And that was huge. And then we always look -- I'll never forget last year in Dallas when I passed over what I thought was a fail safe mark of FedExCup points to keep my card for next year. That was such a big moment in my life that I kept my TOUR card because you never really keep your TOUR card until you've kept it, if that makes sense. Because off the WEB.COM as a rookie you're just playing what they let you in. You don't really get to choose your schedule, you kind of have like a conditional card. So this year when I won those were the first two things I thought about is like I know I have enough FedExCup points to win or to make a huge push in the playoffs, I know I have a job for two and a half years and that's amazing. And then the byproducts of that are just incredible playing in the PGA Championship and Augusta and obviously THE PLAYERS coming up. I could -- thankfully I got to play in that last year, so that's the probably the star struckness is going to be a little less this year, so I might be able to actually focus on my game instead of being in awe of where I am. Especially on the 17th hole last year. So again, Augusta is I've always dreamed about playing in it. I'm not downplaying that in any way shape or form, but I've really thankfully I played the golf course a couple times, so I've seen it and I think that week is going to be really hard to focus on playing well instead of just soaking it all in.

Q. Have you always been long and can you think of a circumstance where it really paid off that you had that, have the length that you do last week at Honda?
KEITH MITCHELL: I was fortunate I kind of grew early and when I was younger, so I was always like a little bit ahead of everybody in their growth spurt so I was always a little bit longer, relatively speaking. I was decently long at Georgia, but really when I got out of Georgia and started focusing on my fitness and focusing on my routine and focusing a lot more on my golf career I feel like I picked up a few more yards and a few more miles an hour club head speed. The best example I have from coming down the stretch on in Honda was No. 12, I just bogeyed 11 and No. 12 is straight into the wind and the bunker was I think it was like 275 to 285 to cover straight into the wind and it opened up my fairway tremendously by being able to cover that bunker because if not you have to squeeze it up the left side, there's another bunker over there and I was able to just pick a good target and swing and have a little bit wider fairway and that was where I started my run of the four birdies the last seven holes. So that was the biggest advantage on the last week in my length was definitely on 12, because 18 my fairway actually got more narrow on the length. I mean 3-wood probably crossed my mind for a millisecond but I was never, I didn't want to pull back, but the fairway kind of narrows up there toward the end and the water comes in play, so I was actually trying to take it over those bunkers, the bunker was anywhere between 310 and 325 to cover just wind straight off the right. So I knew if I smashed it and hit it great and with some adrenaline I might be able to cover the right side of the bunker and that way would have opened up the fairway. But I pulled it a little bit and it went the long route and I wasn't able to cover it. So I think on 18 it almost, I wouldn't say disadvantage, it's never a disadvantage, but just my fairway from the prior three days with as definitely gotten smaller.

Q. Six of the top-10 golfers until the world competing here. How does it feel playing against such a deep talent pool and why is it important that so many talented golfers are here to compete?
KEITH MITCHELL: Well I think that's just a testament to Mr. Palmer's play throughout his career and his legacy for these guys to be here. And this is golf course is such a good test of golf, you look at the winners, they have been pretty incredible in Tiger winning so many times, I mean that's I think that's why a lot of guys play here. But the thing about the PGA TOUR is all pretty much all 150 or 140 guys every week can win. We have proven that over countless years. Every year a guy, a no name guy wins. And so, yes, you're competing against those top what six of the top-10 players in the world here this week, and they might have a larger chance of victory, but there's still 140, 130 other guys, 120 I'm not sure how many are in the field this week but it doesn't matter they all have a chance to win. That's what makes the PGA TOUR so difficult. You watch other sports and you almost know what the outcome's going to be and you hope for a good match. And last week we had a great match and it was with two heavy weights and I guess I was the underdog and it's fun being that guy sometimes. It's fun, it's really fun when you win.

Q. Since you can't spend FedExCup points, I was wondering if you looked at your bank account and what your thoughts are on the number that was in there.
KEITH MITCHELL: I haven't looked at it yet. I don't know if it's cleared or not. But I'll believe sure to look when I get out of here. But it's definitely pretty much doubling if not tripling, I don't know, it's, it's such a large number it's hard to put into fathom, but I'm just thankful that so many people get a part of that. Like my caddie gets a part of that, my coach gets a part of that, my management team that's been so helpful gets a part of that. It's not like it's, I just, it's all for me, like it's so great to have to share with all the people that have helped me get to that point, like I could not win that tournament and earn that check by myself, there's so many people in my corner that have spent countless hours and time and dedication to my game to help me win that tournament. It's just awesome and to be able to be able to hold that big check, I mean you see maybe like Happy Gilmore that he's like, I want the big check. Well I got the big check.

Q. I think you're probably too young to have any type of a low point in your career yet but what was the feeling coming off the West Coast and that stretch you had and what did you do to reset during the week of Mexico or the week off?
KEITH MITCHELL: I loved the West Coast last year. I made every cut on the West Coast last year. I've played pretty decent at Sony last year. And then so I looked at my schedule coming into this year knowing I could pretty much pick it and I wanted to play as much as I could on the West Coast. I loved all the golf courses out there, I played great in a lot of tournaments on those courses and I was looking forward to it. And I think my expectations after Sony got a little out of whack. When I was in the last group playing great and kind of let my emotions take over and didn't finish strong, still had a decent showing, but I think my expectations the next couple weeks really got blown out of proportion because I wanted to play as good as I did in Sony every week and I didn't. And so I tried harder the next week and I tried even harder the next week. The more you do that the less you're focused on what you're actually trying to do and so on my off week I played nine holes in seven days. It was because I knew that my game was where it needed to be but mentally I was not in a good place. So I just kind of put my clubs up for a little bit, just tried to get back to normal and because I've been on the road for I think seven weeks and hadn't been home. So you kind of go through your normal routines when you're home, go to your normal restaurants, you go to the beach for a day and you just kind of get back to zero. Once I was able to do that I was able to focus on what I was supposed to focus on on the golf course and that made my practice way more productive starting Sunday and Monday prior to the Honda and my practice round more productive, my pro-am more productive and it showed off.

Q. Comparing the emotions to the final round at Sony to what you felt on Sunday at Honda.
KEITH MITCHELL: Sony I was caught up in the moment. I was caught up with playing with Kooch and him trying to win for I think it was ninth or 10th time on TOUR. Playing in the last group, I mean Bones was walking with us, I was even kind of star struck just having Bones sitting there talking with us. I mean I've been looking at all these guys for my whole life and it's all a reality at that moment. I let it sink in before I teed off. And that's never a good thing because then you're over your shots knowing how important they are, knowing that the whole golf community is watching on TV and on their cell phones and on the apps, just watching every shot and you feel like you're all that weight is on you because you don't want to let them down. When you're playing to not let people down and not mess up and on national television and stuff, it's impossible to play well. So this week I used that motivation and I used the motivation from like for example when I was in the WEB.COM in Portland and missed that putt and that feeling, I used those feelings to kind of channel myself back to the present moment and what I was actually trying to do in each shot. So I remember on 18 green I was this close to walking up to my caddie while I was waiting for KH to hit his chip to say like, hey, man, this is the putt, this is the putt we have been waiting on. And as soon as that thought crossed in my head I just tried to erase it by thinking about what my putt was going to do, what the break was going to do, what the speed it was going to be doing, where I was going to line up to hit it. And once I got my mind thinking back in that moment and back in exactly what that putt was going to do -- I already knew what it was going to do before I got to the green -- but I just kept going over and over and over in my head just what it was going to do and locking into that. When I was able to do that, that's when I was able to hit the best putt I could. Instead of being over the putt and thinking, oh, my goodness, this is to win a PGA TOUR event. I've done that before and I hit a terrible putt, so I knew off those experiences before that you got to think about actually what you're trying to do. And thankfully I stuck to that.

JOHN BUSH: Keith, thank you for your time. Best of luck this week.

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