Debutant Mitchell enjoying spotlight at The Masters

Mitchell won the Honda Classic last month. (Reuters/USA TODAY Sports)

AUGUSTA: While the Masters is renowned for attracting the world’s top players, a busy PGA tournament schedule and a field of competitors perpetually in flux means you never know who else might be in the field at Augusta National.

First-timer Keith Mitchell likes it that way.

The 27-year-old American makes his Masters debut by virtue of securing his first PGA championship last month at the Honda Classic, claiming victory with a final, 15-foot birdie putt.

“There are forty-something events, there are going to be guys that get their first win every year,” Mitchell told reporters on Monday.

“What’s so great about our sport is the unknown, someone who you might have never heard of wins this week and then you might be able to follow him for the next 10 years.”

While the University of Georgia graduate played the Augusta National course as a college student, he is better acquainted with life among the throngs of spectators.

Of course, a practice round in the glare of The Masters spotlight changed that.

“There were probably more people watching me warm up on a Monday here than at a lot of tournaments I’ve played in my life,” Mitchell said.

“I’ve always watched people and admired how they hit the shots and hit their wedges and the shapes of the drivers, and then I was the guy that people were watching.”

With six top-10 career PGA finishes, Mitchell will look to establish his foothold in the year’s first major, when The Masters kicks off on Thursday.

“I still kind of feel like a rookie and still feel just kind of in awe of the place,” Mitchell said. “And I hope that never goes away.”