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Kurt Kitayama defies star names to win Arnold Palmer Invitational

Kitayama defies star names to win Arnold Palmer Invitational
© Reuters
Kurt Kitayama defies the challenge of several of the sport's biggest names to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational by one shot.

Kurt Kitayama has won his first PGA Tour event with a stunning victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The American, who spent over half of the tournament at the top of the leaderboard, was pressured by a number of the sport's star names, including Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy who will rue missed opportunities to add another trophy to their collection.

However, Kitayama make two nerveless putts under pressure on the final two holes to ensure that he prevailed in Orlando by one shot.

After an eventful opening eight holes, Kitayama incurred a penalty for being three inches out of bounds on the ninth, leading to a triple-bogey.

Given the quality alongside him, it felt unlikely that the 30-year-old would be able to stay in contention, but the following seven holes all produced pars before a dramatic conclusion.

On 17, Kitayama holed a birdie putt from just under 14 feet to move one ahead, but a wayward drive on 18 seemingly left him struggling to make par.

Two putts from 47 feet, a distance only achieved through a brilliant approach from the heavy rough, would secure the win, yet his birdie putt agonisingly came up short, leaving him with millimetres for the biggest triumph of his career.

The formality of converting what may be the shortest winning putt in the history of the sport soon followed, forcing McIlroy and Harris English to settle for a share of second.

Two groups ahead of Kitayama, McIlroy had missed a putt from 10-and-a-half feet to finish one shot better, and Scheffler will feel that he also squandered a chance to defend his title.

After a perfect tee shot on the last, Scheffler came up short with his second, left a difficult chip short of the hole and proceeded to miss the par putt, leaving him to share fourth with Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth and Tyrrell Hatton.

Jon Rahm, who was able to retain his grip of world number one, finished down the leaderboard in tied 39th.

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