Oman Open 2019: Kitayama is champion
It was a tale of an amazing comeback that saw flashes of brilliance from American Kurt Kitayama, who emerged as a deserving winner of the 2019 Oman Open at the Al Mouj Golf on Sunday, his second European Tour title of the season in 11 starts.
The 26 year old, who began the second edition of the European Tour event in Oman, on a confident note, had taken the lead on day one, but then stumbled before making a fairytale comeback to claim the title honours by one shot.
Kitayama was a single shot off the lead after 36 holes of the weather-delayed event but started his third round with a quadruple bogey eight and dropped further shots on the second and third before darkness ended proceedings on day three on Saturday. He then headed into a marathon Sunday off 33 holes, seven shots off the lead, but produced solid stuff to shoot six birdies and an eagle and sign for a 71 to keep his hopes alive heading into round four.
Later, Kitayama was two shots back with three holes to play but birdies on the 16th and 17th saw him card a 70 and get to seven under for a total of 281. It was enough to take the trophy by a shot after the quartet of Spaniard Jorge Campillo,
German Maximilian Kieffer, Frenchman Clément Sordet and Paraguay's Fabrizio Zanotti faltered on the final stretch.
Denmark's Joachim B Hansen, Sweden's Peter Hanson and Belgium's Pieters Thomas were two shots off Kitayama but a shot ahead of English pair of Ashley Chesters and Chris Paisley and Scotland's Scott Jamieson, with ten countries representing in the top 11.
Speaking after the win, Kitayama said, "This one feels really good because when I won the first one I was playing really well and it just felt like it was coming. This week I came in off three missed cuts and not having good weekends in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It feels great to grind through all of that.
"The way we started that third round, I was like, 'can we stop right now?'. It gave me a refresh and it was incredible coming back. The comeback 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.”
An 18 foot putt from Kitayama brought a second consecutive birdie and he parred the last to seal a victory that moved him to fourth in the Race to Dubai Rankings. Last year's winner Joost Luiten shot a last-round par 72 to finish at 286, five strokes behind the winner, along with five other players.
H H Sayyid Taimur bin Asaad al Said, assistant secretary general for communications at The Research Council, was the chief guest and gave away the trophy to Kitayama in the presence of H E Dr Mohammed al Rumhi, the Minister of Oil and Gas, H E Sheikh Saad al Saadi, the Minister of Sports Affairs, and other top officials.