Orlando, Florida – It was Mr. Palmer himself who said “you must play boldly to win.” Well that was certainly the case this week at the 2023 Arnold Invitational presented by MasterCard as Kurt Kitayama secured his first PGA Tour victory.
It was a wild Sunday final round as the lead changes were constant and the star power was a plenty. Don’t let the big names overshadow that Kurt Kitayama had total control over this tournament through about 62 holes. Kurt Kitayama posted the 36 hole scoring record at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and then backed it up with another solid round to keep the 54 hole lead. Although he had several big names biting at his heels, his final round started off consistent and uneventful. However, things began to unravel for him at the par-4 9th hole when he pulled his drive left out of bounds. That would lead to triple bogey and losing his 2 shot lead. Among those who were handed the lead was Jordan Spieth. It seemed that as soon as Jordan grabbed a share of the lead, Spieth’s putter started to fail him. He missed putts inside 10 feet on holes 14, 15, 16, and 17. Making just two of those four putts would’ve put himself in a tie for first and forced a playoff.
World number three in the world, Rory McIlroy also had a share of the lead coming down the stretch on Sunday. He managed to card 5 birdies on his final 10 holes but it was offset with two bogeys and ultimately prevented him from being able to force a playoff or just win outright.
It was all about Kurt Kitayama, however. Even though he lost the lead haflway through the round, he kept pounding at the door and stayed patient. Coming down the stretch, he managed pars on holes 10 through 16. He finally drained that crucial putt on 17 to grab the solo lead (again). He almost made another birdie at 18 but he didn’t need it. This is his first win on the PGA Tour but his fourth professional win worldwide. He is now exempt into all the 2023 majors along with the remaining PGA Tour schedule.
Next week, the PGA Tour heads over to Ponte Vedra Beach for The Players Championship on the famous TPC Sawgrass course.
Kurt Kitayama’s WITB:
Driver: TaylorMade Stealth 2, 10.5 degrees (Fujikura Ventus Black 7 X)
Fairway wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2, 16.5 degrees (Graphite Design DI 8 X)
Fairway wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2, 21 degrees (Graphite Design DI 9 X)
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind 3 (52, 56), Titleist Vokey WedgeWorks Prototype (60) (Dynamic Golf S400 shafts)
Putter: Taylormade Spider X Hydro Blast
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x