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Mitchell takes Honda glory as the rules dominate yet again

The American won his first PGA Tour title in dramatic fashion but it was another controversial week for the new laws of the game. Steve Carroll wraps up the action
 

Honda Classic report: What happened at PGA National?

Keith Mitchell dropped a 15-footer at the last to deny Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler and win his first PGA Tour title at the Honda Classic.

The former web.com player produced some nerveless golf down the stretch in a three-under 67 during a dramatic final round at PGA National.

Mitchell opened up with a pair of bogeys but birdied four of the last seven holes to get home in nine under – one clear of his two storied rivals.

After Ryan Palmer’s 63 had held the clubhouse lead for so long on seven under, three-time major champion Koepka got in front thanks to a fabulous approach on the 16th and a birdie at the par-5 18th.

Fowler, whose bright start with birdies at the 3rd and 4th, was stalled by dropped shots at the 6th, 7th and 10th, came alive as he approached home – joining Koepka at the top with three birdies in his last four holes.

But Mitchell, who steadied himself following his wobbly start, produced some magnificent shots on the way in – not least those to pick up birdies at 13 and 15.

He wasn’t fazed when his tee shot at the last found the face of the bunker, and calmly plotted his way onto the green, before sinking a snaking left-to-right putt for his first victory.

Overnight leader Wyndham Clark had got off to a hot start with birdies at the 1st and 4th but his round started to unravel towards the turn as a host of players bartered for the lead.

At one point, six were tied at the top – including Vijay Singh who was bidding at 56 to become the oldest player ever to win on the PGA Tour.

The Fijian’s iron play, in particular, was sublime throughout and he made birdies at 11 and 12 to tie the lead. But some tentative putting saw him spurn a series of opportunities and his challenge ended when he found the water at the 17th.

In the end it was Mitchell, with Fowler watching on TVs outside the clubhouse, who produced the sensational finish.

Full Honda Classic leaderboard

Honda Classic report: Who’s the caddie?

Mitchell’s caddie also caught a few headlines due to both his appearance and his use of a compass, as seen here. And no it’s not illegal.

Pete Persolja, better known as Crunchy Pete, calls himself the ‘caddy version of Bear Grylls, for obvious reasons and also adds on his Twitter bio: ‘Organic everything. Bought my car/house for $100. I only shower under waterfalls.’

Other similarities included the caddie from Happy Gilmore and Tom Hanks in Castaway. And he’s funny and worth a follow on Twitter @CrunchManPete.

Recent offerings include ‘While I appreciate the gesture of the giving me a health insurance stipend I assure you that won’t be necessary. I have never had so much as a hang nail. I cleanse my body by drinking from natural springs and hanging upside down from tree limbs.’

 

Honda Classic report: Talking point

Could it be anything else? Of course, it’s the rules. But it feels like there’s been a bit of a tipping point this week as players united to voice their displeasure.

After Fowler forgot drops were from knee high last week in Mexico, he made his point in rather graphic style when preparing to take relief during his opening round on Thursday.

Then Adam Schenk picked up a retrospective two-shot penalty after his caddie got caught standing behind him on the 17th on Friday – causing yet more consternation among the players when he was handed the sanction before the start of his third round.

But perhaps the biggest rules clash of the week was the extraordinary confrontation between Justin Thomas and the USGA’s PR team.

Thomas was getting stuck into the rules changes and the USGA for their communications with players.

And that led to this…

Where will it end? Why not take a peek at Mark Townsend’s analysis of the continuing controversy that’s been engulfing the professional game since the start of the year.

Honda Classic report: What the winner said

It is not even close to sinking in – I don’t want it to. Playing like that coming down the stretch is unbelievable.

(On the winning putt) I had some thoughts going through my head that I didn’t need but I focused on line and speed and hit a great putt. It was pretty awesome – Keith Mitchell

 

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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