Kurt Kitayama had suffered one-shot defeats in the past year to stars such as Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele and Rory McIlroy, so it was fitting that Kitayama flipped the script for his first PGA Tour win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational to hold off a star-studded leaderboard to win a wild one at Bay Hill.
A number of players rode the proverbial roller-coaster Sunday at Bay Hill, and Kitayama was among them, making three birdies but also a bogey on the par-5 fourth hole and a triple-bogey 7 at the ninth when his tee shot came to rest inches out of bounds.
Pars from 10 through 16, however, actually saw Kitayama make up ground, then a flushed his tee shot at the 217-yard par-3 17th came to rest just inside 14 feet to set up a birdie that allowed him to retake the solo lead. A par at 18 secured the win.
The iron Kitayama hit on 17 was a TaylorMade P•7MC 6-iron. P•7MCs are forged from 1025 carbon steel and are the company’s most-played iron on tour. The irons use a five-step forging process that uses two to three times the forging pressure normally used in forged irons. The additional force decreases the grain size to improve the overall properties of the metal. Kitayama tied for first in greens in regulation, hitting 51 of 72 for a 70.83-percent clip.
Kitayama also was on fire on the greens, rolling in 144 feet of putts on Sunday, the most in the field despite Jordan Spieth’s early putting heroics. In addition to the key putt on 17, Kitayama dropped a 33-footer for birdie at No. 3 and a 46-foot bomb for birdie at the par-3 seventh. For the week he ranked second in strokes gained/putting, gaining 5.618 shots on the field.
The putter used for those makes was a TaylorMade Spider X HydroBlast mallet – a putter designed in consultation with eye specialists to figure out the ideal shape and width of the crown lines and band to better guide golfers into visualising the ball’s path.
Given the putting performance by Kitayama – particularly his near birdie make on the 72nd hole – no one will argue with that technology.
The clubs Kurt Kitayama had in the bag at the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Driver: TaylorMade Stealth 2 (Graphite Design Tour AD UB 7TX), 10.5 degrees
3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2, 16.5 degrees
7-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2, 21 degrees
Irons (4-6): TaylorMade P7MC; (7-PW): TaylorMade P7MB
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind 3 (52, 56 degrees); Titleist Vokey SM9 WedgeWorks (60 degrees)
Putter: TaylorMade Spider X HydroBlast