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Kurt Kitayama Holds Off Rory McIlroy for Maiden PGA TOUR Victory

Kurt Kitayama Holds Off Rory McIlroy for Maiden PGA TOUR Victory

Kurt Kitayana earned his first career triumph on the PGA TOUR with a thrilling victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The American fought off an illustrious leaderboard which included the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, and defending champion Scottie Scheffler to record a level-par final round 72 on the final day which included four birdies to finish on top spot on nine-under.

“I’ve been dreaming of this for a while,” Kitayama said. “I’ve been close and to finally get it done feels amazing. 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.”

Victory means that Kitayama has now qualified for The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool taking place in July.

Rory McIlroy missed out on victory by one shot after the Northern Irishman missed a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th which meant he had to settle for tied-second alongside 2020 champion Harris English on eight-under having shot a two-under 70.

“It’s disappointing,” said McIlroy. “I felt like I gave myself a great chance after a birdie on the 13th and then to play the final five holes in one over par, with this jam-packed leaderboard, isn’t really going to get it done.

“It was a battle all day. I felt like I hung in there really well and just came up one short in the end.”

The next event on the PGA TOUR is THE PLAYERS Championship on March 9-12 at the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Florida.