Keith Mitchell rides Northern Trust birdie binge to Maryland for BMW Championship at Caves Valley

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Two months ago, Keith Mitchell tied a PGA Tour record by making seven consecutive birdies to begin his third round of the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities in Minnesota.

On Monday, he finished his final round in the Northern Trust at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey with three consecutive birdies to move into the top 70 who qualified for this week’s BMW Championship, the second leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

So, Mr. Mitchell, which birdie binge will remain fresh in your mind for years?

“I would say they are equally memorable,” Mitchell said Tuesday. “However, this one was more impactful, the three birdies coming down the stretch. Just the way I was playing yesterday was not my best golf, and to be able to finish with three birdies not having my best stuff was something that’s really hard to describe because I was relying on my short game a lot yesterday, probably my weakness compared to my driver.

“That’s just overcoming adversity I would say in my own game, in my own mind, and that’s a lot different than when you make seven birdies in a row, where everything is clicking.”

Not much was clicking for Mitchell on Monday. Thinking he needed to finish the tournament at 12 under to have at least a chance to qualify for the BMW Championship, he birdied the eighth to get to 12 under but then bogeyed the ninth and 14th hole. Digging deep, Mitchell suddenly found his best form and knocked in birdie putts of 6, 10 and 17 feet on the final three holes to polish off his gigantic leap from 101st to 63rd in the standings.

“And here we are,” Mitchell said at Caves Valley Golf Club, home to the BMW.

Mitchell didn’t have much time to celebrate; he and his caddie, “Crunchy Pete” Persolja, showered, packed the car and drove three hours from Jersey City to the Baltimore area.

“That’s the only option we had,” Mitchell said. “Got in about 10:00 last night, tried to sleep in a little bit, and then really have to turn and burn and go play 18 holes today. I’ve never played this golf course before. I’ve never seen it. I’m not in the pro-am, so it’s my only opportunity to prepare for this week.”

At least he’s riding an emotional wave of confidence. The winner of the 2019 Honda Classic, where he made birdie on the 72nd hole to beat Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka by one shot, had a week to remember in the Big Apple.

On Tuesday, he paired with Harry Higgs to face Phil Mickelson and Joel Dahmen in a practice round that went viral in social media circles; Mickelson and Dahmen were victorious. That same day, he burst with joy and he toured and then rang the bell on the New York Stock Exchange. And then he tied for eighth in the Northern Trust with an unforgettable finish.

“Just try to keep that same momentum going forward,” he said of this week. “Definitely hit a few balls tomorrow, try and get some kinks worked out of the driver, and then get used to the green speeds.

“Once you do that, it’s pretty much just all execution.”

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