ORLANDO, Fla. (Friday, March 3, 2023) – Kurt Kitayama is still seeking his first PGA TOUR victory, and while the player ranked 46th in the Official World Golf Rankings may not be a household name yet, he has certainly made a name for himself against one of the deepest fields in the history of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.
Kitayama carded a 4-under-par 68 in blustery conditions Friday at Bay Hill Club & Lodge to climb to the top of the leaderboard, two strokes ahead of three-time major champion Jordan Spieth. World No. 6 Xander Schauffele and Corey Conners sit one stroke behind Spieth, while Davis Riley, World No. 4 Patrick Cantlay and 2022 major winners Justin Thomas and Matt Fitzpatrick are tied for fifth heading into the weekend.
“I think I've put myself in good spots,” Kitayama explained. “Right now I feel like I'm just trying to get that win and, you know, it's tough, especially with the guys I've been against. So I’ve just got to keep putting myself in that position to give myself a chance.”
Kitayama, 30, has won three times internationally since turning pro in 2015. In his first full season on the PGA TOUR last year he had two runner-up finishes, and notched another second at the CJ Cup in South Carolina earlier this season. He knows he has knocked on the door enough and hopes this is the week he barges through.
“It definitely gives me a lot of confidence knowing that I'm able to stay with 'em. You get a couple good breaks and it's your tournament, really. So I’ve just got to try to be right up there until the end.”
Kitayama played remarkably steady golf Friday despite winds gusting up to 30 miles per hour and firm, fast greens. He birdied the first hole with an 18-foot putt, then added four more circles on his scorecard against only one bogey.
Another highlight Friday came from Viktor Hovland, who made a hole-in-one on the 183-yard seventh hole. It was the fourth career PGA TOUR ace for the 25-year-old Norwegian.
The second round was suspended due to darkness with two players left on the course. Play will resume at 7 a.m. ET on Saturday.