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Kurt Kitayama Claims First PGA Tour Victory

John Raoux / AP Photo

Kurt Kitayama won his first PGA Tour tournament event at the Bay Hill Club for the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday. Kitayama was tied with Rory McIlroy and Harris English approaching the seventeenth hole and holed a clutch thirteen foot birdie putt to pull away by a shot. The win was sealed with a two-putt par on the eighteenth after Kitayama missed a forty-seven foot birdie putt by almost an inch.

Kitayama overcame a triple bogey at the seventh earlier in the final round to finish at nine under. This marks the first time a player won a tournament with a triple bogey in the final round since Viktor Hovland who won the 2020 Puerto Rico Open in similar fashion. 

Kitayama finished the round with an even par 72 which was enough to come out on top. The California native was able to survive early surges in the round from McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay with the course playing harder and faster than in the previous three rounds. 

Life Changing 

Kitayama turned professional in 2015 after competing in college for UNLV for four years. Kitayama had spent time on the Tour, Asian Tour and European Tour before earning his PGA Tour card in September of 2021. 

The former Runnin’ Rebel won three international events outside of the PGA Tour before his victory today. Kitayama tied for second place last year in the Mexico Open which was his best finish to date. Kitayama’s victory today places him sixth in the Fedex Cup Standings, rising thirty-three spots and currently ranks nineteenth in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Kitayama will compete this week in the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass just outside of Jacksonville. The hope will be that Kitayama can carry this momentum going forward and continue to build his confidence, hopefully leading to more victories on the tour this year.

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