McIlroy applauds Kitayama as perseverance pays off in maiden PGA Tour victory
Rory McIlroy applauded Kurt Kitayama's maiden PGA Tour victory after the pair were split by a single stroke at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The Northern Irishman tied for second alongside Harris English at eight under as Kitayama finally ended his runners-up hoodoo to claim victory at Bay Hill Club and Lodge.
After three near-misses on the tour in 2022, including a one-stroke loss to McIlroy at the CJ Cup, Kitayama's victory saw him rewarded for his perseverance.
Speaking afterwards, McIlroy was happy to sing the praises of his fellow player, while acknowledging he was frustrated to have come up shy after just missing his putt at the final hole.
"I think [Kitayama] has been playing pretty well," McIlroy said. "He's sort of persevered and played wherever he could get starts.
"All of a sudden, he's won one of the biggest events on the PGA Tour, so good for him.
"It's disappointing. To play the final five holes in one over par, with this jam-packed leaderboard, isn't really going to get it done.
"It was a battle all day. I felt like I hung in there really well and just came up one short in the end."
Kitayama qualified for The Open with his victory and will hope to finally have an impact on a major. He was tied for 72nd last year.
"Last year was special, with it being at St Andrews," he said. "The Open Championship is a really cool experience.
"I haven't done well, but I've just got to try to keep getting myself back in it and keep getting better."