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February 25, 2020

Keith Mitchell

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Keith Mitchell into the interview room, our defending champion here at the Honda Classic, making his third start at this event. Keith, first of all, if we can get you to take us back to 2019 and your victory here.

KEITH MITCHELL: It's great to be back. It's obviously my first victory on the PGA TOUR, and it will always hold a special place in my life.

Played the back nine yesterday for the first time and the front nine today for the first time, and yesterday I actually went back and tried to hit that putt again on 18, tried to find it, so that was fun.

Last year, it was a dream come true. It's what we work for our whole lives, to try and win on the PGA TOUR, and to do it here at such a great golf course that's held this tournament for so long is really just fun to be back, and now it's business this year that we're trying to get the same thing, trying to get the trophy again. So it's been fun to see everything, but also it's business, as well, because I don't want somebody else taking my trophy from me.

JOHN BUSH: Comment a little bit about your season up to this point, making your 11th start of the year.

KEITH MITCHELL: I've always felt like this was my good stretch, I guess, because I grew up on the Bermuda greens. I grew up in this part of the country playing golf, so I'm a little bit more comfortable here. Felt like I've had an okay start at the beginning of the year. Got to go to Maui for the first time, which was great, and played decent in Sea Island, where I live.

I feel like we're trending. My game is getting better. I've had some good finishes the last couple weeks, so really I would say this is really where the start of my year is really starting to pick up.

Q. Did you make the putt?
KEITH MITCHELL: I was actually trying to find exactly where it was. I was messing around a little bit, and we couldn't get it exactly where it was. I have to go back on the cameras and looks for it.

Q. (On playing the back nine.)
KEITH MITCHELL: I'll tell you what, it was fun, because I remembered where I was shot was on that back nine, exactly where I hit -- however many shots it was, but I remember every shot on that back nine, and every time I walked on to the next hole, it kind of brought back what I did that day. It was kind of funny because I bogeyed 11. I remember standing on 11 tee, and I was like, man, I've just got to hit this in the fairway and don't make bogey. Man, being on 15 -- it was funny, the wind was exactly what it was last year when I was playing, which is going to be opposite this year. It was fun playing the same wind yesterday on the back as it was last year, but this year it looks like it's going to be completely opposite. I mean, the whole Bear Trap looks like it's going to be into off the left, and last year it was down off the right, so it's going to play completely different.

Q. Last year where did you draw your motivation from as the week moved on and you got yourself in position to win?
KEITH MITCHELL: A lot of it was past experiences on the PGA TOUR, where I'd been in the last group on Saturday my rookie season and shot, I think, 74 or 75 when I was in the last group.

And then last year, my second season, I was in the last group on Sunday for the first time at Sony, and I think I shot 74 or 75, too. It was more of just kind of this internal battle with myself of I wanted to prove to myself that I could compete and handle the big stage better, and that's really what I was -- it was kind of that motivation that I had, especially after I bogeyed the first two holes on Sunday, was to prove to myself that I could handle the stage.

Q. Confidence-wise after you won, first PGA TOUR victory and holding off Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka, what did that do for you moving forward?
KEITH MITCHELL: You know, it let me know that I could play with those guys, but it also made me want it more because once you do that one time, it's something you want to do every week. And so the next couple weeks I was obviously playing good, and I kind of felt that, but then when you're going into the weeks that you don't necessarily have your 100 percent, it's really tough because all you want to do is win, and when you're obviously not in position to win on Saturday afternoon and you're in 40th place, it's frustrating.

But last year the confidence, it built that I could do it, but I've got a lot of work to do to be consistent with those guys. I mean, Brooks and Rickie are consistently at the top every week, and I've got some work to do to stay up with those guys.

Q. You're friends with Josh Teater; what were your reactions to seeing him come so close in Puerto Rico last week? And anything you've learned along the way from him as being a professional golfer?
KEITH MITCHELL: Josh and I met when I turned pro. I didn't know him until I turned pro. But he's very -- I would say very wise about how to balance life and golf, and he's helped me a lot in that aspect. He's also one of the best ball strikers I've ever seen, and it's a very natural motion. It's very fluid. And to see him have that putt -- he seemed to have a putt on 18 to potentially -- at the time it looked like to take the lead, and his putting hasn't been up to his standards lately, and it looked like he hit a great putt, and unfortunately it didn't go in. That's kind of one of those things you want to pat him on the back and say, look, you did everything you could, sometimes the cards go your way and sometimes they don't, but to see him in the field this week and know his momentum is going forward is pretty awesome.

Q. Has he given you any tips along the way?
KEITH MITCHELL: I mean, so many. A lot of guys have. I mean, that's what's great about the PGA TOUR. So many guys have helped you, it's hard to pinpoint one thing really.

Q. You were talking about how you shot 74, 75 and some of these other rounds when you were in the final group, so what was different about you last year in that situation as opposed to before? What are the mental or physical changes that make the difference?
KEITH MITCHELL: It's definitely more mental than physical because if you're in the last group, obviously your physical game is good enough to be in the lead or next to the lead. It's more of trying to achieve and accomplish something instead of trying not to mess something up, so if you're in the last group, you're like, wow, I'm in a really good position, I hope I can stay here. If you're in first, you don't want to lose first place. If you ever think about it that way, you start falling backwards.

This last year here I was really just trying to move up the leaderboard in terms of under par, and I was trying to -- and the way to do that is you hit each shot, you hit each putt and you don't think about where you are. Toward the end of the round last year, I guess I bogeyed 11 and didn't want to fall back into that same kind of thing, so I was like, look, I'm just going to make as many birdies as I can coming up, and whatever happens happens, and the cards fell my way.

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