Kurt Kitayma Wins the Arnold Palmer Invitational
It’s been an exciting few weeks on the PGA TOUR heading into the biggest event of the regular season, next week’s The Players Championship.
A week ago, Chris Kirk won for the first time in seven years down at the Honda Classic, and on Sunday here in the Central part of the state, Kurt Kitayma won for the first time after 50 career TOUR starts.
“It’s pretty amazing. Just to get your first win, I think is an unbelievable thing. Lucky enough to have it at a very special place, so that’s a bonus,” said the 30-year-old Californian after firing an even par 72 on Sunday to finish 9 under for the tournament and win the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. He was a shot better than both Rory McIlroy and Harris English at -8.
“I feel like I putted really well all week. A lot of fun to be in the mix playing with Rory the last day and there was a lot of energy and excitement out there from the fans and it was a lot of fun. Sucks to come up one short, but I’ll take a lot of positives to the PLAYERS next week,” said Harris, the former University of Georgia standout and 5-time winner on the TOUR.
Kitayama saved par with a great approach shot after an errant drive on 18 to capture the coveted red cardigan sweater, winner’s trophy, a first-place prize of $3.6 million dollars, and move up to No. 18 in the Official World Golf Rankings.
“The pulse is going pretty good still. But just from what I’ve learned in the past few years and being in these situations. I’ve been able to control how I feel a lot better. Especially when it’s coming down 18 like that or hitting a tee ball out of bounds. You just got to let it go,” added Kitayama.
Five players, including 3 of the last 5 winners here, Scottie Scheffler (2022), Tyrrell Hatton (2020), and McIlroy (2018), were tied for the lead with 3 holes left to play to illustrate how tight things got.
“I think he’s been playing pretty well. I sort of know Kurt more from European Tour stuff because he played over there. But he’s done really well. He’s persevered and played wherever he could get starts, and suddenly, he’s won one of the biggest events on the PGA TOUR. So good for him, said McIlroy after finishing in a tie for second place.
Kitayama becomes just the 7th player to win his first PGA TOUR event at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club and Lodge.
This 2023 version of the Arnold Palmer Invitational is one of those designated, elevated events with a $20 million dollar prize purse – just $5 Million less than is offered at The Players as the TOUR travels north to Ponte Vedra Beach near Jacksonville for the next to last stop on the Florida Swing.