Kurt Kitayama Wins PGA Tour Title at Arnold Palmer Invitational

Kurt Kitayama is now a PGA Tour champion, having taken home the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge on Sunday.[0] After a chaotic day, Kitayama emerged from a stacked leaderboard with a winning score of 9-under 279. He beat Rory McIlroy, Harris English and Tyrrell Hatton by one shot, making a clutch birdie at the difficult par-3 17th and then sinking a 14-foot putt at 18 for the win.

This was Kitayama’s first PGA Tour title after a number of close calls, including three runner-up finishes in his last 23 starts, to World No. 1 Jon Rahm at the Mexico Open, Schauffele, No. 6, at the Scottish Open and McIlroy, who was No. 1 at the time, at the CJ Cup.[1] Kitayama, who won twice on the DP World Tour in 2019, was ranked outside the top 250 in the Official World Golf Rankings just last year, but is now securely inside the top 50 and continues to put himself in position for more wins.[2]

Jordan Spieth charged early in the day with four birdies in his first five holes, but could not get the putts to drop down the stretch and finished in a tie for fourth at 7-under.[3] McIlroy, the 2018 champion, had an inauspicious start with two bogeys, but rallied with birdies at Nos. 12 and 13 to take the lead at 9-under, only to be undone by late bogeys at Nos. 14 and 15.[4] Rahm, the world No. 1, made five straight bogeys around the turn in the third round and finished the tournament on one over.

Kitayama’s caddie, Tucker, was full of praise for his player, saying “Look at him; look at his smile. He got the monkey off his back, proving he can play with the big boys. I’m anxious to see what he can do the rest of this year.”[5] Kitayama himself was elated after the win, saying “I’ve always dreamed of winning on the Tour and to finally do it, yeah, it’s pretty amazing.[6] It’s pretty unbelievable, really.[6]

0. “Kurt Kitayama's clutch final holes earn him first PGA Tour victory at Arnold Palmer Invitational” Fox News, 5 Mar. 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/sports/kurt-kitayamas-clutch-final-holes-first-pga-tour-victory-arnold-palmer-invitational

1. “Kitayama holds onto Bay Hill lead; Jon Rahm is in danger of losing the top ranking” Marca, 5 Mar. 2023, https://www.marca.com/en/golf/2023/03/05/640486eb46163feb068b458a.html

2. “2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational leaderboard, scores: Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele chasing Kurt Kitayama” CBS Sports, 4 Mar. 2023, https://www.cbssports.com/golf/news/2023-arnold-palmer-invitational-leaderboard-scores-jordan-spieth-xander-schauffele-chasing-kurt-kitayama

3. “Arnold Palmer Invitational: Kurt Kitayama beats Rory McIlroy by one shot for maiden PGA Tour win” BBC, 6 Mar. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/sport/golf/64851901

4. “Kurt Kitayama holds off McIlroy to win thrilling Arnold Palmer Invitational” The Guardian, 5 Mar. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2023/mar/05/kurt-kitayama-holds-off-mcilroy-to-win-thrilling-arnold-palmer-invitational-golf

5. “How Bryson DeChambeau’s former caddie wound up on the bag of another Bay Hill champion” GolfDigest.com, 6 Mar. 2023, https://www.golfdigest.com/story/tim-tucker-caddie-return-arnold-palmer-invitational-kurt-kitayama-win-bryson-dechambeau

6. “A late break: Kurt Kitayama's clutch birdie at No. 17 wins at Bay Hill” The Florida Times-Union, 6 Mar. 2023, https://www.jacksonville.com/story/sports/golf/pga-tour/2023/03/05/a-late-break-kurt-kitayamas-clutch-birdie-at-no-17-wins-at-bay-hill/69973658007