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It hasn’t been a friendly year for longshots on the PGA Tour, especially in the more popular events. In the first three elevated events of the season, the winners were World No. 1 Jon Rahm, World No. 2 Scottie Scheffler, and Rahm again.

It looked as if we were heading toward another short-priced winner at the Arnold Palmer Invitational with Scheffler and Rory McIlroy battling for the lead down the stretch, but it was 220-1 longshot Kurt Kitayama who emerged from the pack to secure his first PGA Tour victory. By doing so, Kitayama vaulted from No. 46 in the Official World Golf Ranking to the top 20 for the first time in his career.

Kurt Kitayama was a 220-1 longshot to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Longshots win on the PGA Tour all the time, but they normally pop up at smaller tournaments with weaker fields. That wasn’t the case at the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational, which featured a $20 million purse and a field with 27 of the top 30 players in the OWGR.

As for the pre-tournament odds, Rahm (+700), McIlroy (+950), and Scheffler (+1100) were in a tier of their own at the top. The second tier was made up of Max Homa (+1900), Collin Morikawa (+2100), Justin Thomas (+2300), Will Zalatoris (+2400), and Xander Schauffele (+2400).

Then there was Kurt Kitayama all the way down the odds board at 220-1. There were 62 players ahead of him on the board in the 120-person field, so it’s fair to say sportsbooks didn’t give him much of a chance to win. And why would they?

Kitayama, who’s on just his second full season on the PGA Tour, was ranked No. 46 in the OWGR and didn’t have a win to his name yet. What are the odds of him besting a major-level field for his first PGA Tour victory? Well, 220-1, I suppose.

But Kitayama never flinched.

Kurt Kitayama vaulted inside the top 20 in the OWGR after winning the API

Kurt Kitayama celebrates with the Arnold Palmer Invitational trophy.
Kurt Kitayama celebrates with the trophy after winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard at Bay Hill | Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Kitayama wasn’t supposed to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational at 220-1 odds, but that’s the beauty of golf. The talent is so deep on the PGA Tour that anyone can win on any given week if they bring their A-game. That’s exactly what Kitayama brought to Bay Hill last weekend, and he held off some of the best players in the world on Sunday afternoon to notch his first career PGA Tour victory.

With the win, Kitayama vaulted from No. 46 in the OWGR to No. 19. The California native can now call himself a top-20 golfer in the world for the first time in his life, and he’s ranked higher than major winners Keegan Bradley, Shane Lowry, Hideki Matsuyama, and Adam Scott, among others.

Kitayama overcame enormous odds just to make it to the PGA Tour, and now he’s done the same to crack the top 20 in the OWGR.

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