Kurt Kitayama Wins Arnold Palmer Invitational

Bay Hill Golf

Kurt Kitayama’s first PGA Tour win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was far from a walk in the park. The Californian showed immense resilience to bounce back from a triple bogey at the 9th hole during his final round, ultimately holding off the charge of Rory McIlroy to claim victory. Kitayama’s triumph earned him a whopping $3.6m in prize money.

An Exciting Finish At Bay Hill

Kitayama’s final hole heroics sealed the deal, as the 30-year-old hit a magnificent 48ft putt that came agonizingly close to sinking.Kurt Kitayama Wins Arnold Palmer Invitational But Kitayama only needed a two-putt for the victory. McIlroy, watching on from the scoring area, knew that his eight-under-par total – which Harris English shared – would not be enough to force a playoff. Kitayama’s birdie two at the final hole proved to be the pivotal moment of a thrilling finish. At one stage, with the end in sight, five golfers were tied for the lead at minus eight. But it was Kitayama’s composure that ultimately prevailed.

Sitting at 11 under, he held a two-shot lead heading to the 9th tee. That’s when the chaos ensued. Kitayama’s drive went out of bounds, and his third shot found a horrendous bunker lie. By the time he tapped in for a seven, the lead had passed to Jordan Spieth. Kitayama also carded a seven at the 4th on day three. Had it not been for these wild swings in momentum, he might have won with a little more breathing room.

“It was really hard. I’m going to sleep really well tonight. It was everything I kind of mentally prepared myself for. It was pretty much as hard as I expected. I’ve always dreamed of winning on tour and to finally do it, it’s pretty amazing. It’s pretty unbelievable, really.” – Kurt Kitayama

A Crowded Leaderboard Down The Stretch

Spieth’s bogeys on three of the final five holes saw him finish at minus seven, while Patrick Cantlay, Tyrrell Hatton, and Scottie Scheffler all ended on the same score. Scheffler, the defending champion, bogeyed the last, but Kitayama’s strong finish made it less painful than it could have been. Meanwhile, McIlroy attacked the par three 14th without realizing that his birdie at the previous hole had given him a one-stroke lead. Although McIlroy had bogeyed his first two holes, he found his footing and went three under for the day after 13. At the next two holes, bogeys halted his charge, but he almost reached nine under with a birdie attempt at the last.

“I still wish I could have had a couple of shots back today but I guess everyone would say the same thing,” said McIlroy. “It’s one of those days and one of those courses where you’re going to rue missed opportunities and a couple of missed putts here and there. I need to take the positives from it, which there are a lot of. We’ve got a massive event next week [the Players Championship] and I’ll try to bring that momentum into Sawgrass.”

With the win, Kitayama has secured his place in this year’s Open Championship which will be held this July at the famous Royal Liverpool Country Club.

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