Kurt Kitayama takes lead at Arnold Palmer Invitational
Kurt Kitayama leads the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the halfway stage after world number one Jon Rahm was blown off course at windy Bay Hill.
Gusts up to 25 miles per hour made for challenging conditions in Florida and first-round leader Rahm suffered by carding a four-over 76, his highest score since the third round of the PGA Championship last May.
Kitayama has never won on the PGA Tour, but the Californian surged to the top of the leaderboard on nine under with a 68 that included five birdies and a solitary blemish at the par five 16th.
The 30-year-old holds a two-shot lead over Jordan Spieth, who closed with a 69 after almost going out of bounds at the 18th before missing his par putt.
Xander Schauffele and Corey Connors – who produced the best second-round score of 66 – are tied on six under, while US Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick and American trio Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay and Davis Riley are a shot further back.
Rahm, who already has three PGA Tour wins this year, was among the early starters on the back nine and his day began badly when he drove into the water at the 11th and dropped a shot.
The Spaniard recovered with a birdie at the short 14th but four shots went in the final five holes, including a double bogey seven at the sixth after he found the water again.
Rahm, among a group on three under, lies one stroke ahead of Rory McIlroy who played himself back into contention after a difficult first day.
🚨 ACE ALERT 🚨
Viktor Hovland cards the fourth ace of his career @APInv 🔥 pic.twitter.com/Oa2Fr1eIyH
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 3, 2023
McIlroy followed up his opening 73 with a battling 69 that saw him birdie three of the four par fives.
Shot of the day belonged to Viktor Hovland, who also finished two under after a hole in one at the 183-yard seventh.
Hovland produced a perfect seven-iron for his fourth PGA Tour ace, and the 23rd in the 57-year history of the tournament.
Two-time major champion Collin Morikawa and England’s Justin Rose were among notable players to miss the cut.
Rose’s hopes of playing the weekend were ruined by a triple bogey eight at the sixth after he drove into the water twice.