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Mitchell tames the Snakepit in PGA Valspar tournament

AP PHOTO

American golfer Keith Mitchell has capped off a magnificent run through the "Snake Pit" at Innisbrook with a shot he never saw go in.

His 7-iron from the 18th fairway one-hopped into the hole for eagle on Saturday, capping a round of five-under 66 and a two-shot lead with one round to play in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

Mitchell was among a dozen players on the fringe of contention at a tournament so tight that it began with all 77 players who made the cut separated by a mere six shots.

That changed when he went 3-2-2 through the closing stretch of the Copperhead course, the first player to do that in tournament history.

Mitchell drilled birdie putts on the 16th and 17th holes and then holed out on the 18th hole with a 7-iron from 140m up a steep hill.

That put Mitchell at 10-under 203, two shots clear of Canadian Mackenzie Hughes (69), Irishman Seamus Power (68) and American Peter Malnati (68).

Mitchell knew the shot was good, but something flew into his eye as he followed the flight, causing him to look away and wipe away the speck.

Then he heard a loud cheer, looked up and realised the ball had gone in for a most unlikely eagle.

"When I looked up, something kind of flew in my eye, so I kind of looked away and never saw it come down and land," he said. "But I knew ... when I hit it, I was pleased with the contact."

The 18th green is elevated, and the pin was up front behind a deep bunker, so he wouldn't have been able to see it go in the hole, anyway. He could hear the crowd, and there was pleasant surprise on his face he couldn't hide.

After starting the third round just one shot off the pace, Australian Aaron Baddeley had a disappointing day.

He eventually signed for a three-over 74 to slip back to a tie for 34th at two-under 211.