Birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie is how Keith Mitchell started his record-tying day in 3M Open

·5 min read

BLAINE, Minn. – How was the start of your Saturday round of golf?

Keith Mitchell’s was pretty good.

At the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities, Mitchell tied a PGA Tour record with seven consecutive birdies to begin his round. With the heat index inching toward 100 degrees, Mitchell, who started on the 10th hole, got on a heater from the get-go and he dropped a 7-footer for birdie on the 10th.

From there, he scored from 31, 8, 10, 9, 11 and 4 feet to move into a share of the lead and started thinking about golf’s magic number

“Oh, absolutely,” Mitchell said if he thought about shooting 59. “Probably standing on the (par-4) 16th tee. It was playing up today, it was drivable and I hit an awesome 3-wood up there just short of the hole and got up and down, and when I hit that really good shot into the next hole, 17, which is definitely one of the toughest holes and I hit that great shot, it was like if I keep swinging like this and executing like this, we’re going to have a chance.

“And then the wind picked up and I clearly didn’t.”

While the temperature never wavered, Mitchell cooled down. His birdie run ended on the par-3 17th when he missed lipped out from 16 feet. After winding up just past the green in two on the par-5 18th, a poor chip left him 18 feet and he couldn’t convert. After turning in 7-under 29, a poor drive on the first led to Mitchell’s first bogey and a poor approach led to a bogey on the third. He also three-putted for par from 80 feet on the par-5 sixth.

Mitchell didn’t make another birdie after his run and shot 5-under-par 66 to get to 8 under. He’s on the outskirts of contention.

No player in PGA Tour history has started a round with eight or more consecutive birdies. Since 2003, four players have started with seven; Mitchell, Juan Sebastian Munoz in the first round of the 2020 Northern Trust Open, Brandt Snedeker in the first round of the 2007 Farmers Insurance Open; and Joe Durant in the fourth round of the 2005 Honda Classic.

“The wind was a little quieter when we started, for sure, so that led to being a little more aggressive. When the wind picked up, the greens got a little firmer on the back side and I kind of had to play a little more defensive and it showed,” Mitchell said. “After I made the turn and we had to walk maybe 500, 600 yards to the No. 1 tee, that’s kind of when it started setting in a little bit and I think it did because I hit a really bad drive on one and caught an unfortunate break catching a flyer to go over the green. But it was like, OK, let’s try to get back in the zone or the rhythm, and it was a lot harder because the wind started picking up.

“I feel like it’s two completely different rounds. It’s one round, but to me, it feels like two different ones because I couldn’t miss on the first seven holes and all I was trying to do was just give myself opportunities on the back nine and it just wasn’t happening.”

But all in all, it was a good round to call upon. Especially for Mitchell, who had missed his last five cuts and fallen to 174th in the world rankings. The 2019 winner of the Honda Classic, when he held off Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka, tied for third in the Wells Fargo Championship earlier this year. That is his only top 10 in 2021.

“I actually felt some nerves a little bit, but they were good nerves,” he said. “It was a good kind of nervous, not like the ‘Hope I don’t miss the cup’ nerves or ‘Where do we stand on the FedExCup?” nerves. It’s more of like, ‘Hey, I’m in contention again and I want to play well’ nerves, and those are the good kind.”

Snedeker, who has shot three consecutive 69s to stand in the middle of the pack at the 3M Open, easily recalled his scoring binge. In the first round of the 2007 Buick Open, starting on the 10th hole of the North Course at Torrey Pines, Snedeker made six birdies and eagled the 14th hole to begin his round.

It should be noted that Snedeker got to 10 under through his first 10 holes before making seven pars and another birdie on his back nine. He signed for an 11-under 61 that day and wound up in a tie for third behind winner Tiger Woods that week.

“It’s a mixed feeling, right? Excitement because you’re playing good, things are going right, then you realize that something special could be happening here when you birdie the first five, six, seven, and then that number creeps in your head like, OK, 59’s doable,” Snedeker said. “But then the complexity of the round changes a lot on you when you start the day with that kind of a stretch.

“Your expectations change and you’ve got to kind of come to grips with that and either roll with it and say I feel great, I’m playing great, let’s keep going, or you get uncomfortable a bit and you kind of get in your head.

“The voices get in your head, you birdied every hole, now you parred two in a row, what’s going on? It can kind of works against you.”