After two decisive final holes, Kurt Kitayama is now a winner on the PGA Tour after taking home the Arnold Palmer Invitational at 9-under.
Kitayama had a three-shot lead going into the final round on Sunday, but as we’ve seen too many times in the past, it’s never an easy path to victory in golf.
That was almost the case on the 9th hole when Kitayama saw his tee shot go into the water, triggering a triple bogey that wiped out his lead.
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However, the Chico, California native dug deep and kept pace until the 17th hole when he converted a birdie opportunity.
From about 14 feet on the par 3 hole, Kitayama sank the putt, giving him his first birdie since the 7th hole, which was also a par 3.
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That put Kitayama back at 9 under and, more importantly, one up with one hole to go.
World No. 2 and World No. 3 golfers Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler, respectively, trailed Kitayama entering that 18th hole. McIlroy was just a stroke behind, while Scheffler trailed by two.
But Kitayama kept his cool in the moment, even after his shot hit a drop off to the left of the fairway. On his approach shot, he kept it safe, landing his ball about 47 feet from the hole.
Kitayama nearly sent the crowd into a frenzy as his putt nearly leaked, stopping on the rim of the cup.
However, with that marvelous pitch, he froze his victory and the finish of a bunt putt brought a smile to his face.
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Speaking after the best round of his life (he hit a 72), Kitayama was impressed with «how hard I fought.»
«I went south on the 9 and all of a sudden I’m not driving anymore,» he told NBC. «I just fought hard. I’m proud of myself for that.»
Not only was it the first win of his career, it was also the biggest payday of Kitayama’s career. To date, he has earned around $4 million on the PGA Tour, according to the Golf Channel.
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Well, he almost matched that total with his first win as the Arnold Palmer Invitational purse was $3.6 million.