The PGA Tour to Orlando, Puerto Rico, Champions to Arizona, LPGA to Singapore and Asian Tour to New Zealand were the first weekend of March. High drama ensued as first-time winners climbed to the podium at two events. A defending champion was defending at a third event, while a veteran took home glory at a fourth. This week was a high-stakes week for golfers around the world. So, get ready to enjoy our Tour Rundown March edition.
PGA Tour: Arnold Palmer Invitational: First-time winner in KSquared
Kurt Kitayam has been able to handle the pressure of a tight event, from the Asian Development Tour to the Asian Tour to the DP World Tour. His previous wins in the professional ranks were all within two shots. He played a clever tee ball far from the Bay Hill water on the 72nd Hole. Although his lie was not great, he managed to get it onto the boomerang 18th fairway, leaving him with a 2-zip code putt. Kitayama played calmly as a journeyman grinder and hit a perfect putt, which somehow defied gravity. It stayed on the lip of that crevice. Kitayama tapped in from a slim distance after a mark to win his first PGA Tour title.
Forget the Rory McIlroys (2nd), the Patrick Cantlays and Scottie Schefflers. Instead, consider the Tyrrell Hattons, Jordan Spieths, and Tyrrell Hattons (4th). The man who should have won went away tied for 10th. Cameron Young finished his second round with a score of 67 and was four over par for the final four holes. He played the same stretch on Saturday in plus-two. Sunday saw him even par of the apparently-impregnable quadrilateral. Young finishes at -11 if you give him six more shots.
Now back to Kitayama. He kept the damage to a minimum of one bogey over the first two days. On Saturday and Sunday, he showed a different side. He was able to rebound from the huge number. After scoring a double on the par-5 fourth hole on day 3, he managed to play the remaining 14 holes with a score of minus-two. Kitayama was enjoying his cruise on Sunday when he hit a drive left at the ninth hole. He ended up with a putt of two feet for a triple. Many non-winners would have given up their rights to play at the big names, but Kitayama was not one of them. Kitayama had seven pars and then made birdie at 17th. He was followed by his heroics at 18.
Clutch birdie @Kurt_Kitayama?
He leads by one to play @APInv. pic.twitter.com/bjLuxCxIto
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR March 5, 2023
LPGA: Jin wins the 14th LPGA Women’s World Championship
Jin-Young Ko was a threat to win all of her events from 2019 to 2021 for a three-year stretch. Although her game has improved over the last two years, the ability to win is not diminished. Ko was the defending champion this week in Singapore. With the rain falling from the sky, and her eyes tearing up, Ko Kleft the field with a total of 17 under, beating Nelly Korda by 2 The week started with three bogeys, and the eventual winner had a 72. It was not the jump-start you might expect. Elizabeth Szokol was eight shots behind Ko in that even-par round. Szokol moved to the 70s during the week and finished in a tie for eighth place. Ko then found a new home in zone 65.
Two rounds of seven-under on Friday and Saturday saw the Korean Komet move to the top of board, two shots ahead of her nearest competitors. After a three-bogey start Ko settled to one speed bump per round. Her fourth-round bogey was at the 11th hole. She erased it by making birdie number four just two holes later. Korda was close behind, showing signs of complete recovery after last season’s health scare. Although she opened with three 68s, the Floridian was unable to reach the mid-60s and get Ko to follow her. Sunday saw her shoot a five-birdie-two-bogey round 69 that was enough to finish one stroke ahead of Danielle Kang and Ayako Furue for second.
Jin Young Ko leads by 2 with his brilliant birdie of 13! ? pic.twitter.com/F4PFtciF56
LPGA (@LPGA March 5, 2023
PGA Tour Puerto Rico Open: A winner from Colombia in Nico Echavarria
The slogan of the PGA Tour’s “These Guys Are Good” was a catchphrase that was always open to interpretation. Contrasting-field tournaments like the Puerto Rico Open did not have the same status as other tournaments. The message was “Some of these Guys Are Good.” This is no longer true. Akshay Bhatia and Nico Echavarria won glory in Rio Grande.
Echavarria was a college golfer at Arkansas. He then progressed to the professional ranks of PGA Tour Latinoamerica where he won two times in 2018. Echavarria opened the caribbean with a pair 67s but waited until Saturday to make his move. Carson Young held the 36-hole lead but fell to 71 on Saturday. Nico took advantage with 65. It was a duel between Nico, the aforementioned Bhatia on Sunday. Bhatia, a US Walker Cup player as a teenager left university to join the professional ranks. The Wake Forest, N.C. native started round four with a birdie and ended it with seven more birdies for 65 and 19 under par. The Colombian was unstoppable on this day. After a difficult front nine, Echavarria returned home in 33 to win a two-shot victory.
Colombian @Nicolas_Ech seeks his first TOUR win @PuertoRicoOpen, as he leads by three with four to play. pic.twitter.com/SLcAlIyG0Y
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR March 5, 2023
PGA Tour Champions – Cologuard Classic to Toms by a shot
People from another generation will remember David Toms, the man who denied Phil Mickelson a PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club. He was quick to remind us of his game when he reached the Tour Champions 2017 in 2017. The 2018 US Senior Open title that Toms won was followed by very little. Toms won the next senior circuit title in 2021. He then waited two more years to win title number 3.
He was accompanied by Robert Karlsson and Steve Stricker in Arizona. Stricker fell to eighth with a round-three 71. But Karlsson held on well. The Swede was almost flawless on Sunday with only one blemish, a bogey at 11th. Was that a mistake that cost him a playoff spot? Statistics say yes. On the 13th hole, Toms made a bogey, but he still had enough birdies to beat Karlsson… until his last drive. Toms’ cut was just enough to fade into the hazard at the tee. Toms played two more shots, reaching about five feet. He then drained his putt for victory and bogey. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but how many.
The winning feeling for @davidtomsgolf? pic.twitter.com/dXZX2n12OW
— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour), March 5, 2023
Asian Tour: New Zealand Open Trophy in the Hands of Jones
Brendan Jones was not able to claim the New Zealand Open top spot with a third-round score of 62. Shae Wools–Cobb and two others stood in his way of reaching the top of the pyramid. Fans know that it is not easy to follow a nine-birdie effort by another stellar round. Jones was able to get some help from his fellow competitors.
Cobb’s game ended with 78 after three great rounds. Terumichi Kaakazu and Christopher Wood both shot rounds of 72 which gave way to a dozen other challengers. Four golfers managed to reach 269 for 15 under on the week. John Lyras’ 64 was the highlight of John Lyras’ second-lowest round of the day. Jones, after a front nine of one-under, was not on the title favourite’s list. However, that changed within an hour. The 48-year-old Australian won his first Asian Tour victory in 13 years with four birdies on holes 12 through 17. It was also his 19th professional win. The sun sets later on the professional golfer’s career, as they say.
Watch the last round of the @NZOpenGolf?
? : @PhotosportNZ #NZOpen #whereitsAT https://t.co/OArodorQ8C
— Asian Tour (@asiantourgolf March 5, 2023