San Francisco Chronicle

Kitayama rallies for Bay Hill win


ORLANDO, Fla. — Kurt Kitayama let an AllStar cast of contenders back into the tournament with a triple bogey, only to beat them all with a clutch birdie and the best lag putt of his life to win the Arnold Palmer Invitation­al on Sunday.

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.

The tap-in par for an even-par 72 might have been the easiest shot he had all day.

Rory McIlroy roared into the mix with four birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn, only to miss a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole for the lead. He had a 70 and finished one shot behind. So did Harris English, who went bogey-free on the weekend at crusty, windy Bay Hill for a 70.

Defending champion Scottie Scheffler was a foot away from a close look at birdie and chance at the lead. Instead, his ball spun back into the rough on the 18th.

Jordan Spieth was among six players who had at least a share of the lead over the final two hours.

He missed four straight putts inside 8 feet from the 14th through the 17th — three for par. He took the lead with a 15-foot birdie putt, then played his last five holes in 3 over. Spieth (70), Scheffler (73), Patrick Cantlay (68) and Tyrrell Hatton (72) all finished two behind.

Kitayama finished at 9under 279 and earned $3.6 million.

“It went south on 9,” Kitayama said. “All of a sudden, I'm not leading any more. I just fought back hard, and I'm proud of myself for that.”

McIlroy tried a bold play on the par-3 14th without knowing he was right in the mix, the start of a bogey-bogey stretch that set him back. He hit the best approach of anyone on the 18th, right over the flag to 10 feet. The putt stayed to the right the whole way.

The finish was such pure theater that five players were tied for the lead deep into the final round, and all of them had chances to win.

“I certainly felt it on the golf course, so I'm sure it was pretty good to watch,” McIlroy said. “It's hard because the lead was changing hands with guys making bogeys, not really making birdies. So don't know how people find that entertainm­ent value.

“But it was a great back nine. It was great to be involved with,” he said. “I'm really happy for Kurt. He's been playing well for a while now and I'm happy to see him get his first win.”

Ko holds on for Singapore victory

Jin Young Ko answered an early charge by Nelly Korda, held her nerve during a 58-minute storm delay late in the round and closed with three straight pars for a 3-under 69 and a two-shot victory in the LPGA's HSBC Women's World Championsh­ip at Singapore.

Ko now has 14 career wins on the LPGA Tour, including two majors.”

“Because I had a tough year last year and fought with injury, and not good game and mentally tough and everything,” Ko said. “And then I won this week.”

Ko has been at No. 1 in the world ranking longer than any active player, and she was on top of the world when she won in Singapore a year ago. But then she began to struggle

with her wrist, and even taking time off for rest late in the year didn't seem to help. She now is No. 5 in the world.

Ko finished at 17-under 271 and earned $270,000.

Toms best by a stroke at Tucson

David Toms got upand-down for his third bogey of the week on the par-4 18th hole at Tucson National to beat Robert Karlsson by one stroke in the Cologuard Classic on the PGA Tour Champions.

Echavarria nails down first title

Colombian rookie Nico Echavarria seized control with two straight birdies on the back nine and closed with a 4-under 68 for a two-shot victory in the Puerto Rico Open at Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, for his first PGA Tour title.

Akshay Bhatia closed with a 65 to finish second.

 ?? Sam Greenwood/Getty Images ?? Kurt Kitayama finished at 9-under 279 and earned $3.6 million for winning the Arnold Palmer Invitation­al at Bay Hill Golf Course in Orlando, Florida.
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images Kurt Kitayama finished at 9-under 279 and earned $3.6 million for winning the Arnold Palmer Invitation­al at Bay Hill Golf Course in Orlando, Florida.

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