By PA Sport Staff
Kurt Kitayama endured an eventful final round as he edged out Rory McIlroy to claim his first PGA Tour title at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The 30-year-old American carded a triple-bogey seven at the ninth at Bay Hill, Orlando as he attempted to defend a single-shot overnight lead, but he gathered himself to come home in 35 for a second successive 72, which got him across the line at nine under par.
Asked how he was feeling, Kitayama told Sky Sports: “Ecstatic. I’ve been dreaming of this for a while. I’ve been close and to finally get it done feels amazing.”
The moment @Kurt_Kitayama became a PGA TOUR champion @APInv 🏆 pic.twitter.com/LEr5doBs8e
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 5, 2023
Asked about his emotions throughout the day, he added: “I didn’t feel too off. For the most part, I was feeling in control. One loose swing there and maybe a bad kick left, it just happened.
“My heart was pumping, but being in those situations in the past definitely helped. I found myself walking super-fast and then I was like, ‘Slow down, just take a minute’, and that really helped.”
McIlroy found himself in a four-way tie for the lead on eight under as Kitayama stood on the 17th tee, but the American’s birdie two put him a shot clear with just the final hole to play.
He dragged his tee shot at 18 into the rough but managed to find the green with his second and left a monster first putt on the lip to clinch victory.
Northern Irishman McIlroy started the day three shots behind the leader and put himself in contention with a round of 70, which included seven birdies alongside five dropped shots, but he ultimately had to settle for a share of second with American Harris English.
Asked what his primary emotion was, McIlroy said: “Disappointment. I feel like I have myself a great chance after the birdie on 13, and then playing the final five holes in one over par, with this jam-packed field, isn’t really going to get it done.
“It was a battle all day. I felt like I hung in there really well, I just came up one short in the end. But Kurt played well and did really well to hang on in that back nine.”
Patrick Cantlay shot a 68 to tie for fourth with fellow American Jordan Spieth, defending champion Scottie Scheffler and England’s Tyrrell Hatton.