Kurt Kitayama’s clutch final holes earn him first PGA Tour victory at Arnold Palmer Invitational
After a clutch final two holes, Kurt Kitayama is now a winner on the PGA Tour after taking home the Arnold Palmer Invitational at 9-under.
Kitayama took a three-shot lead into the final round on Sunday, but as we’ve seen many times in the past, it’s never an easy road to victory in golf.
It was almost like that on hole 9 as Kitayama saw his drive go into the water on the tee box, leading to a triple-bogey that erased his lead.
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However, the Chico, California, native dug deep and kept the momentum going until the 17th hole when he capitalized on a birdie opportunity.
About 14 feet out from the par-3 hole, Kitayama sank the putt, giving him his first birdie since hole 7, also a par 3.
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That put Kitayama back at 9-under, and more importantly, one-up with one hole to play.
The world’s No. 2 and No. 3 golfers, Rory McIlroy and Scotty Scheffler, respectively, were on Kitayama’s tail heading into the 18th hole. McIlroy was a single stroke back, while Scheffler trailed by two.
But Kitayama stayed cool in the moment, even as his drive went into some rough left of the fairway. On his approach shot, he kept it safe, landing his ball about 47 feet from the hole.
Kitayama almost sent the crowd into a frenzy when his putt almost went in, stopping on the lip of the cup.
With that incredible roll, however, he held on to win and the definition of a tap-in putt put a smile on his face.
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Speaking after the best round of his life (he shot a 72), Kitayama was impressed by “how hard I fought”.
“I went south on 9, and all of a sudden I’m not leading anymore,” he told NBC. “I’ve fought hard. I’m proud of myself for that.”
Not only was it his first career win, it was also Kitayama’s biggest career payday. To date, he has earned nearly $4 million on the PGA Tour, according to Golf Channel.
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Well, he nearly matched that total with his first win as a purse of $3.6 million for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.