Kitayama survives a scare to win his first ever PGA Tour title

Kurt Kitayama survives a scare to win his first ever PGA Tour title at Arnold Palmer Invitational… as American fends off Rory McIlroy to scoop the huge $3.6MILLION prize

  • Kurt Kitayama went into the final day at Bay Hill with a one-shot overnight lead 
  • He triple-bogeyed the ninth but managed to hold his nerve to win by one shot 
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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 after scooping the $3.6million prize, 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.’

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.’

Kurt Kitayama beat off stiff competition to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday

The 30-year-old American triple-bogeyed the ninth but regained his composure to win

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, with the pair both taking home $1.78m.

Kitayama lifts the trophy in Orlando after sealing the win – and the huge $3.6million prize

McIlroy was close to usurping the American on the leaderboard but fell just short of the win

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. All of those players take home $800,000 each.

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