Kurt Kitayama earns $3.6m with maiden PGA Tour win after surviving BRUTAL break

Kurt Kitayama held off a host of big names to claim his maiden PGA Tour title and $3.6m at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Ben Smith's picture
Sun, 5 Mar 2023
Kurt Kitayama earns $3.6m with maiden PGA Tour win after surviving BRUTAL break

Kurt Kitayama overcame one of the most unfortunate breaks in recent memory to claim his maiden PGA Tour win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and scoop the biggest pay cheque of his career. 

Kitayama was the 54-hole leader in a star-studded elevated event but it looked as if he had blown his chances on No. 9 at Bay Hill. 

The 30-year-old American tugged his tee shot way, way left and was visibly distraught to see his golf ball out of bounds by a matter of inches. 

It led to a devastating triple bogey and opened the door for one of several huge names to take the title. 

In the end, Kitayama fought back and held on with a gutsy two-putt on the 72-hole, nearly draining his 47ft birdie attempt.

It meant that he took the title by one stroke over Rory McIlroy and Harris English at 9-under, who both carded final rounds of 70. 

An emotional Kitayama, who picked up the first prize of $3.6m said: 

"I'm just proud of how hard I fought. It went south on nine and all of a sudden I'm not leading anymore. I fought back. I fought hard." 

Of the debacle at nine, he said he told his caddie Tim Tucker (who previously looped for Bryson DeChambeau): 

"I told him I didn't feel rattled at all. He said,  'Yeah, just keep on trucking along and we'll get it back.'" 

Kitayama said on 14, where he made a par at the tough par-3, he felt as though he was right back in it. 

His victory means that he has also secured a spot at the 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool later this summer. 

Elsewhere defending champion Scottie Scheffler (70), Tyrrell Hatton (72), Jordan Spieth (70) and Patrick Cantlay (68) all tied for outright fourth place. 

Davis Riley, Trey Mullinax and Jason Day rounded out the top-10. Riley and the aforementioned English took the final two Open spots.  


McIlroy started the day poorly, making bogey at his first two holes and was six strokes adrift. 

The Northern Irishman, 33, turned in level par and began to make inroads towards the leaders, making birdies at 10, 12, 13. 

But McIlroy then carded consecutive bogeys at 14 and 15, failing to get up-and-down from the sand at the par-3 and hitting his tee shot way left at the next hole. 

Jon Rahm retains his place as the World No.1.

This was also another near miss for the aforementioned Spieth, who briefly held the lead on the back nine. 

Spieth birdied four of his first five holes and appeared to be in full control. Spieth chipped in and also made a simply wild par save at No. 6. 

He appeared to be troubled by a lower back injury and then it all went south towards the end of his round. He cut a frustrated figure after making bogey at 14, 15 and 17. 

England's Hatton, also a former champion here, will also feel like he didn't do himself justice on the final day. 

Final leaderboard:

K. Kitayama -9 

Rory McIlroy, Harris English -8 

T. Hatton, P. Cantlay, J. Spieth, S. Scheffler -7 

D. Riley, T. Mullinax -6

J. Day -5

Next page: Jack Nicklaus on what Rory needs to do in the majors