MUSCAT: Kurt Kitayama secured his second European Tour win in just 11 starts after a gripping final round at the 2019 Oman Open saw the American seal a sensational comeback to win by one-stroke over a quartet of players at the stunning Al Mouj Golf.
The 26-year-old, who earned his playing privileges through Qualifying School at the end of 2018, looked like he had blown his chances of a second title of the season after carding six over par in his first three holes of the third round before play was called off on Saturday due to low light. But the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open champion bounced back in emphatic fashion when play resumed along the coast on Sunday by adding six birdies and an eagle to his third round tally to head into the final round three shots behind Fabrizio Zanotti.
Having navigated the first 15 holes at level par, Kitayama posted back-to-back birdies to take the outright lead after the leading pack all dropped shots on the homeward stretch with Zanotti carding his third double bogey of the round on the 17th. A superb approach into 18 gave Kitayama two shots for the title after Maximillian Kieffer failed to force a play-off with a missed birdie putt, and he duly obliged to seal the fourth tournament on part two of the Desert Swing on seven under par after a marathon on Sunday of 33 holes.
“It feels pretty good to get the win,” said Kitayama against the backdrop of the Indian Ocean. “The comeback in the third round definitely helped me going into the final round and to get back in contention. With it being a continuous round kind of helped me cruise into the next one.
“I was watching the leaderboard to know where I was, especially coming down the stretch and when you take the lead you want to know where everyone else is and where in the course they are and see what holes you have coming up and you set up yourself for that.
“This win feels really good because when I won my first title I was playing really well so I felt it was coming, this week, however, I came here after three missed cuts and I did not have good weekends in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. So I had to grind through this, especially after the bunker shot, so it feels great to just grind through all that.”
Zanotti, Kieffer, Clement Sordet and Jorge Campillo all shared second place in Muscat, just one shot behind Kitayama. Frenchman Sordet, who won the European Challenge Tour’s Grand Final at this venue in 2017, will be ruing a missed opportunity at a first European Tour title after narrowly missing a short par putt on the 18th which saw him surrender his place at the top of the leaderboard.
Thomas Pieters, Joachim B Hansen and Peter Hanson finished one further back for tied sixth while Scott Jamieson and English duo Chris Paisley and Ashley Chesters completed the top ten on four over par.
Meanwhile, last year’s champion, Joost Luiten, took a slice of 12th place after a third round 68 and final round 72 saw him overcome the disappointment of a five over par 77 in round two. He was joined by Frenchman Victor Dubuisson, Ireland’s Gavin Moniyhan, Denmark’s Jeff Winther and English duo David Horsey and Jordan Smith, who carded an impressive final round three under par 69.