Three places in The 150th Open are up for grabs at this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard and Keith Mitchell has more reason than most to feel confident about his hopes of earning a trip to St Andrews.
On each of the last two occasions the Bay Hill event has featured in The Open Qualifying Series, in 2019 and 2020, Mitchell was among the players to book their spots in golf’s original Championship.
A placing of tied-sixth in the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational was enough to earn Mitchell his place at Royal Portrush for The 148th Open, while he then finished tied-fifth in 2020 to qualify for The 149th Open at Royal St George’s.
He will now look to qualify through the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the third time in succession, as one of the leading three players (not already exempt) finishing in the top 10 and ties.
Mitchell heads into this week’s tournament in fine form, having finished inside the top 12 in four of his last five starts on the PGA TOUR.
And the American will be particularly eager to ensure he is in the field for The 150th Open, given his strong affinity for St Andrews, strengthened by his family’s ties to the town.
His father, Jerry, is an R&A member while his sister Brindley went to university in St Andrews and worked in The R&A Clubhouse.
However, Mitchell is set to face stiff competition in Florida from a high-class field featuring a host of players who are yet to secure their place at St Andrews.
While 35 of the starting field are already exempt for The 150th Open, including four Champion Golfers in Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and the newly appointed United States Ryder Cup Captain Zach Johnson, high-profile names such as Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Matthew Wolff, Si Woo Kim and Rickie Fowler will all be among those bidding to secure Open qualification.
Leishman can also call on great memories at Bay Hill, having won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2017.
A host of Champion Golfers have enjoyed success at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, most notably Tiger Woods, who has won the event an astonishing eight times.
Francesco Molinari (2019), Rory McIlroy (2018), Ernie Els (1998 and 2010), Phil Mickelson (1997), Lee Trevino (1975) and Arnold Palmer himself (1971) have also won the tournament in its various guises over the years.
Reigning champion Bryson DeChambeau is unable to defend his crown this time around due to injury.
In 2020, when the tournament last featured as part of The Open Qualifying Series, Tyrrell Hatton took the title while Danny Lee and Joel Dahmen joined Mitchell in qualifying for The 149th Open.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational is the fourth event in The Open Qualifying Series for 2022, with 10 places in The 150th Open having already been claimed at the Joburg Open, SMBC Singapore Open and The Vic Open.
A minimum of 46 places in The Open are available through the Series, which provides golfers with opportunities to qualify at events around the world on the PGA TOUR, DP World Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia, Asian Tour, Korean Tour, Japan Golf Tour and Sunshine Tour.