Kitayama leads at Palmer Invitational, chased hard by Scheffler and Hovland
Khel Today Bureau
ORLANDO, Fla: Kurt Kitayama goes for a maiden PGA Tour win as he holds a slender one-shot lead at the storied Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. Kitayama, 30, from California held himself together for an even par 72 that had two birdies in the last three holes at the tough Bay Hill, which is always a great test.
Kitayama has two hugely talented and established stars, the defending champion Scottie Scheffler (68) and Viktor Hovland (66), who are one shot behind the leader at the $ 20 million event. Scheffler had five birdies in his last seven holes as he shot 68.
Kitayama was at 9-under 207 with Scheffler and Hovland at 8-under 208.
The other contenders include players from the top 50 in the world like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Max Homa. McIlroy made his move with a bogey-free round of 68, always a big thing at this course.
Two shots behind Kitayama was Tyrrell Hatton of England, who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational for his first U.S. victory in 2020. That was also the last PGA TOUR event before the COVID-19 pandemic. Hatton played bogey-free 66.
There was plenty of evidence of trouble at Bay Hill, as always.
As many as four players including Canadian Corey Conners (75), who fell after a disastrous 40 on the back nine.
Spieth opened bogey-bogey playing while playing with Kitayama. He still was within two shots of the lead but then went the final 12 holes with no birdies and one bogey for a 74. Thomas played bogey-free until missing a 4-foot par putt on the last hole for a 72.
Homa was 4 under through his opening four holes, only to drop four shots the rest of the way until a birdie on the 16th for a 71. Xander Schauffele (75) was six behind along with Patrick Cantlay (74).
Jon Rahm is in danger of losing the top ranking. He opened with a 65 and has followed that with two straight 76s.