Kitayama beats a star-studded field to win Palmer's event and earn a spot to The Open

Orlando, Fla, March 6 (IANS) Kurt Kitayama has finally won a PGA Tour title and it came at the iconic Arnold Palmer Invitational.

He beat a big collection of world class players with a crucial birdie and the best lag putt of his life to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday.

Kitayama finished at 9-under 279 and earned $3.6 million. It also secured him a spot in the 151 Open at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake.

It was a dramatic finish with five players tied for the lead with only three holes left, Kitayama pulled ahead with a birdie putt from just inside 15 feet on the par-3 17th hole for the lead. Then, his 50-foot putt on the last hole stopped an inch from the cup and he parred for 72. Kitayama hung in and sealed the deal.

Earlier Rory McIlroy had four birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn but missed a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole. That would have given him the lead. He shot 70 and finished one shot behind as did Harris English (70) at the windy Bay Hill for a 70.

Defending champion Scottie Scheffler came close to a birdie which would have given him the lead, but the ball spun back into the rough on the 18th and he finished with a bogey.

Jordan Spieth was among six players who had at least a share of the lead over the last two hours. He missed four putts inside eight feet, of which there were for par, so he bogeyed them. He was 3-over for the last five holes.

Spieth (70), Scheffler (73), Patrick Cantlay (68) and Tyrrell Hatton (72) all finished two shots behind in second place.

Jon Rahm finished in a tie for 39th. It was his first finish outside the top 10 since the TOUR Championship last August, but he hangs in as World No. 1.

–IANS

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