The career year for Kurt Kitayama continues. He posted his best finish by far in 10 major championship starts, taking T-4th at last week’s PGA Championship. His previous best was T-51st at the 2020 PGA.
Quadzilla, as friends JJ Spaun and Xander Schauffele, call him, carded the co-round of the day on Sunday with a 65. Kitayama didn’t contend for the title at Oak Hill, but four rounds of 71 or better at a tough track like that ought to give him confidence.
Speaking of confidence, that should be in high supply. He’s No. 20 in the Official World Golf Ranking after sitting at 130th this time last year.
A big reason for the rise was his maiden PGA Tour victory coming this year at a designated event, the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Kitayama’s been a bit up and down since then, but he rose up to make the quarterfinals at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
The 30-year-old Californian comes to the Charles Schwab Challenge for the second time. Last year, he debuted with T-40th (71-65-70-76). Kitayama ranked 11th in the field in strokes gained off-the-tee, but he struggled seeing Colonial’s greens for the first time.
Kitayama likely isn’t super well-versed in putting on bent grass, so I expect him to roll it better the second time around.
The UNLV alum ranks 37th on the PGA Tour in SG approach per round (.434). He’s gaining strokes everywhere but off the tee. Kitayama can get a little off-line with the driver, so I think coming to a place where he can hit irons and woods off the tee will play to his advantage.