Kitayama leads from Florida local Berger after opening day at Honda Classic

By Sports Desk February 24, 2022

Kurt Kitayama managed four straight birdies on his back nine to claim the lead ahead of Daniel Berger in a group of three after the opening day of the Honda Classic in Florida on Thursday.

The little-known American carded a six-under-round of 64, starting the day with three straight birdies, before his hot run on his back nine at Palm Beach Gardens.

Kitayama has enjoyed a good recent period, making the cut at his past five starts before Thursday's impressive feat as solo leader.

"I think when you're struggling, I think just that self-motivation to find keep getting better and finding a way to figure it out, it's kind of how you've got to keep going," Kitayama told reporters.

The 29-year-old leads by one stroke from Rory Sabbatini, Chris Kirk and hometown hero Berger who are five-under.

World number 20 Berger started his round brilliantly, with three birdies on his first four holes, while he also sunk a 28-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole with no ill-effects from a back problem that has been plaguing him lately.

Slovakian veteran Sabbatini made birdie on the 18th to jump into a share of second, with Kirk having eight birdies and three bogeys in an entertaining round.

Danny Willett, Matthias Schwab, Andrew Kozan, Aaron Rai and Peter Uihlein are all next tied for fifth at three under.

Four-time major winner and current world number 15 Brooks Koepka managed three birdies in his round of two-under-68 to be four shots off the pace.

Last week's Genesis Invitational winner Joaquin Niemann had an even round of 70, despite leading early after four birdies on his front nine, with a double bogey holding him up on the fourth hole.

Pre-tournament favourite Louis Oosthuizen will battle to make the cut after five bogeys on the front nine before a double bogey on the 17th hole left him with a five-over-75.

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