Monday 4 March 2019 7:23 pm

Sam Torrance: Keith Mitchell and Kurt Kitayama find strong finishes to clinch landmark wins

Keith Mitchell found himself in a familiar predicament at the Honda Classic on Sunday: facing a birdie putt from 15 feet for a victory that would change his life.

The last time he had been in that position, back in August 2017, it was a title on the second-tier Web.com Tour – and, with it, promotion to the PGA Tour – at stake. Mitchell missed it, and it had haunted him ever since.

Until Sunday, anyway, when the 27-year-old from Tennessee holed his putt at the last, confronted his demons and claimed a maiden PGA Tour title that secures his membership for two years.

Had he missed, he’d have landed in a three-man play-off with Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler, the world’s third and seventh highest ranked players.

It’s a lovely story, and Mitchell looks a very good player with a bright future.

His win also capped a fantastic turnaround in fortunes on the day. Mitchell bogeyed the first two holes of his final round and was in a five-way tie for the lead with three to play.

This time he got the break, although you make your own breaks in golf. Four birdies in the last seven holes saw Mitchell home.

Fowler made four birdies on the back nine to surge into contention for a second win of the year. Koepka was also brilliant down the stretch and must have thought his score of eight under par would be enough for a play-off at the least.

Both are doing nicely, though, as they look to get up to speed for The Players Championship next week and the first official Major of the year, next month’s Masters.

Vijay Singh played beautifully all week and, with just two holes left, he looked to be in with a chance of becoming the PGA Tour’s oldest ever winner.


But at the end of a rollercoaster back nine which began with two bogies and three birdies, the 56-year-old from Fiji found the water at 17. It was to be Mitchell’s week.

A winner's a winner

Over in Oman, meanwhile, another young American, Kurt Kitayama, was continuing his fine season by winning a second European Tour title.

Like Mitchell, he clinched the win with two late birdies in a sterling finish. But while his countryman had been inspired by past misses, Kitayama’s victory owed something to his own recent success.

Having come through qualifying school in November, the Californian won on only his third European Tour start, at the Mauritius Open in December. It hasn’t all been plain sailing since then – he arrived in Oman following three missed cuts – but he had learned that he could do it.

A winner’s a winner. It means that when you are in contention you know what’s to come; you’re more settled and confident. He knew what he had to do on Sunday and he has now converted his two chances to win.

Will Rory defend title?

Golf fans have a great week in prospect as a strong field assembles for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Fresh from four consecutive top-five finishes, will Rory McIlroy defend his title? It will also be interesting to see whether Justin Rose can reclaim the world No1 ranking from Dustin Johnson.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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