Kurt Kitayama has been knocking on the door for some time. This week, he’s finally kicked it down and secured his first PGA TOUR victory. He switched to the Stealth 2 Plus driver prior to the start at the iconic Arnold Palmer Invitational hosted at Bay Hill, a course noted for its demanding tee shots and difficulty around the green. He showed prowess in both regards. Across the four rounds, he led the field in both fairways hit (70%) and greens in regulation (71%).
Kitayama made the choice to switch to Stealth 2 Plus driver following a collaborative conversation with his coach and TaylorMade’s tour team. Everyone knew how well he’d been playing after being in contention in three of his last six starts – the only missing link was optimizing performance off the tee on a Sunday. Yes, the tee shot on nine happened. But he bounced back with absolute confidence and kept the ball on the string for the remainder of the round.
It wasn’t just the tee shots, however. Kitayama displayed the overall game that made him a two-time winner on the DP World World. He was first in driving accuracy, greens in regulation and sand saves. Not to mention second in Strokes Gained Putting. A winning formula. Here’s a full break down of Kitayama’s winning bag:
After discussions with Kitayama and his coach regarding his comfort level with his Stealth 2 driver, TaylorMade Senior Tour Manager Adrian Rietveld met Kurt on the range for a Monday driver testing session.
Rietveld felt that Kurt needed to test a Stealth 2 Plus head that could create a better lie angle and a shaft that was shorter and softer. Kitayama previously was in a TX shaft at 45.25 inches.
Being a player that can produce 183-184 MPH ball speed with driver, there is flexibility in testing different specs without giving up distance because Kitayama already has that in him. Rietveld built up a Stealth 2 Plus 10.5° head in a Graphite Design Tour AD DI 7-X shaft at 44.75 inches and right off the jump the strike with the Stealth 2 Plus head was more consistent.
Where the Stealth 2 Plus head became an advantage was not only with the preferred lie angle of 57°, but also the ability to use the adjustability of the sliding weight and back weight to knock down spin. Rietveld had weights in his pocket on standby on the Bay Hill driving range and made a change.
“When we initially moved the weight the lie angle was good, we just needed the spin to come down a little bit," Reitveld said. "We moved it back to front swapping at 15g weight in the front to an 18g weight and then a 19g weight in the back for a 15g weight.”
The change of weights knocked down spin 200-300 RPMs and Kitayama made it clear that this shaft and head combination was the one he felt most comfortable with and dispersion numbers on the launch monitor were showing the consistency that Reitveld was looking for.
Kitayama took the driver out on the course on Tuesday and liked how it was performing and the rest was history. Just six days later, Kurt Kitayama was donning the famous red cardigan sweater at Bay Hill.
“It was almost like a driver fitting intervention and the way it ended up happening that we do the the fitting and then he beats the strongest field in the world is amazing. We believed in our product to be able to give him the best chance and his skills to make it happen and the fact that he did at such a hard course like Bay Hill against that field is just awesome.”Adrian Rietveld, TaylorMade Senior Tour Manager
Inside the Spec: Kurt Kitayama's Stealth 2 Plus Driver
- Actual Loft: 10.25°
- Lie: 57°
- Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 7-X
- Tip: 1''
- Length: 44.75''
- Swing weight: D4
- Front weight: 18g
- Back weight: 15g
- Loft sleeve: 1° at standard upright
- Grip: Golf Pride Tour Velvet 58 (1 tape logo down)
It wasn’t just the tee shots, however. Kitayama displayed the overall game that made him a two-time winner on the DP World Tour. He was first in driving accuracy, greens in regulation and sand saves. Not to mention second in Strokes Gained Putting. A winning formula. Here’s a full break down of Kitayama’s winning bag:
Kurt Kitayama Need to Know
- Kitayama secured his first PGA TOUR victory in his 50th start on TOUR
- Kitayama's win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational marks the fourth across major professional tours for Stealth 2 driver in 2023
- The win comes after holding his first 54-hole lead in his PGA TOUR career and makes him the first player to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in his debut appearance since 1990
- Kitayama is also the first ever winner at Bay Hill to lead/tie for the lead in both fairways hit (70 %) and greens in regulation (71%)
- The win is Kitayama's third professional worldwide victory with two victories coming on the DP World Tour (2018 AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, 2019 Oman Open)
- His two DP World Tour victories came in his first 11 starts which made Kitayama the fastest player ever to win two DP World Tour Events
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