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    Kurt Kitayama hit two drives OB this weekend. He gained anyway

    Kurt Kitayama rallied after two OB tee pictures this weekend.

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    Kurt Kitayama knew straight away Saturday. His tee shot on No. 4 was no good.

    He to save lots of the swing, pushed his membership left on the follow-through, however the harm was achieved. Instantly his hand got here off the membership. He barely even watched as his golf ball sailed proper and stored going farther proper, over the boundary fence.

    He walked over to caddie Tim Tucker for an additional ball.

    Kitayama was within the lead by himself in one of many PGA Tour’s greatest occasions, however he in all probability wasn’t purported to win this week on the Arnold Palmer Invitational. That’s no slight on Kitayama, who was twice a runner-up in his rookie season a yr in the past and completed the season forty first within the FedEx Cup. He additionally picked up two DP World Tour wins earlier than incomes his PGA Tour card by the use of the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.

    kurt kitayama holds a trophy

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    Nonetheless, the chasers to start out the weekend at Bay Hill included stars like Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Justin Thomas and Matt Fitzpatrick. By the tip of Saturday, the record would develop to incorporate Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland and Tyrrell Hatton.

    By the primary three of the PGA Tour’s Designated occasions, the winners’ record contains simply Scheffler and Jon Rahm, the final two instances, transferring the victor to World No. 1.

    An important misfire on an in any other case gettable par-5 may have simply led a professional, with little expertise profitable tournaments on the highest stage, to start to crumble and wilt below the stress.

    As an alternative, you in all probability understand how the week ended for Kitayama by now.

    Again to No. 4 within the third spherical, or his provisional — now his third shot — he geared again with a 3-wood. He stated he tried to place the block out the horrible swing he simply made.

    “That’s why I went to the 3-wood subsequent shot,” Kitayama stated Saturday. “Simply to attempt to neglect about it, not give it some thought, actually. Simply sort of like— it bought away from me. So simply an uncomfortable factor.”

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    He ended up with double on the opening, the one one of many day on 4, and made one other bogey on 9. He regarded like he was wilting. However the appears have been deceiving.

    “There’s no giving up,” he stated. “It’s simply sort of in my nature, I really feel like. Even when it’s going unhealthy, you possibly can’t similar to pack it in. You struggle for each shot.”

    He rallied with 4 birdies on the again 9, together with one on 18 to shoot even and convert his 36-hole result in a 54-hole one.

    However then got here Sunday, and it occurred once more.

    This time, Kitayama already had his spherical rolling. Three birdies had him to 11-under and he opened up a two-shot lead after a powerful up-and-down on the brutal par-4 eighth.

    However on 9, the California native knew it once more instantly on the tee.

    “Fore left!”

    He smothered his tee shot and It crossed the cart path left of the green and ended up about six inches left of it.

    Kitayama didn’t discover out for certain till after hitting his provisional and strolling as much as his first tee shot that the trail was the out-of-bounds line. One other one OB.

    He walked away to his provisional, leaving his first ball behind.

    In contrast to Saturday nevertheless, his third ball wasn’t in superb form. It was within the left fairway bunker, pinned up in opposition to the correct facet lip. His try from 206 yards hit the lip and traveled simply 130 yards and settled within the tough 82 yards from the opening.

    He made 7, once more, however on the par-4 ninth, that meant triple and his two-shot lead grew to become a one-shot deficit.

    After he putted out, he had a protracted stroll from the inexperienced to the tenth tee. That’s when he went to his bagman, Tucker.

    “I used to be placing for triple, and I simply informed him, I simply wished to let him understand how I felt. I nonetheless felt snug,” Kitayama stated Sunday. “I didn’t really feel misplaced. It was only one unhealthy swing. He sort of backed me up. He stated that I do know, you look tremendous. And that helped.”

    And the match didn’t get away from him. Whereas there was loads of star energy up and down the leaderboard, nobody pulled forward.

    Jordan Spieth briefly bought to 10-under however sputtered to 3 bogeys in his final 5 holes. Rory McIlroy had it to nine-under, however then instantly backed up with back-to-back bogeys. Tyrrell Hatton did the identical.

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    By the point Kitayama made it to the brief par-5 sixteenth, the lead had fallen again to him in a logjam at eight-under. He was working a streak of six pars in a row. He knew who he was battling.

    “Going into the day you already know who’s close to the highest and also you simply listen the entire day,” he stated. “You possibly can’t ignore it. You bought to know the place you’re at and you already know who’s there and simply embrace the entire scenario.”

    His drive was excellent: 310, down the correct facet of the green, leaving simply 190 for his method. His second discovered the middle of the inexperienced giving him an uphill 56-footer for eagle and an opportunity to drag away.

    He rammed it 10 ft by and missed the comebacker for birdie. The chance was wasted and now he needed to take care of the troublesome ending holes at Bay Hill.

    “It was only a laborious putt,” he stated. “I gave myself a very good run at it on the second. However, I don’t know, at that time, there’s nothing you are able to do. You see the leaderboard, you already know you’re nonetheless proper there in it, and simply give attention to the following shot.”

    Kurt Kitayama of the United States waves after making birdie on the seventh green during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard at Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Golf Course on March 05, 2023 in Orlando, Florida.

    Kurt Kitayama survives Bay Hill, wins Arnold Palmer Invitational for first PGA Tour title

    Jack Hirsh

    Once more, he may have pale into submission, however as an alternative, he knocked it to 14 ft from 217 yards on 17, made the putt after which practically rolled in a 47-foot birdie putt on 18 for the exclamation level on a one-shot win after the faucet in.

    A number of instances all through the week Kitayama handled poor swings, unhealthy breaks or missed alternatives, however his demeanor by no means modified and it paid off together with his first PGA Tour victory. He now strikes as much as No. 19 on this planet, a career-high.

    “I imply, you’re in an uncomfortable scenario and whether or not it’s on the golf course or off, you simply bought to take care of it,” Kitayama stated. “The heartbeat goes fairly good nonetheless. However simply from what I’ve discovered prior to now few years and being in these conditions. I’ve been in a position to management how I really feel loads higher. Particularly when it’s coming down 18 like that or hitting a tee ball out of bounds. You simply bought to let it go. I imply, on 9 in the present day I felt like I did a very good job doing that.”

    Jack Hirsh Editor

    Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is 2020 graduate of Penn State College, incomes levels in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his highschool golf staff and nonetheless *tries* to stay aggressive in native amateurs. Earlier than becoming a member of GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but in addition producing, anchoring and even presenting the climate. He might be reached at [email protected]



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