ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Matt Every is finally a winner on the PGA Tour, and he’s still not sure how it happened.
He was nine shots behind Masters champion Adam Scott going into the weekend at Bay Hill. He was still four back of the Australian he referred to as a “stud” going into the final round Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Every figured even par over the last three holes would do the trick. He made two bogeys.
Even after a hearty handshake from the tournament host and a shiny trophy an arm’s length away from, Every summed up this wild day with just the right words.
“I ... I ... I can’t believe I won,” he said. “I just ... I really can’t.”
The tee shot that he feared might be out-of-bounds on No. 9 somehow bounced along a cart path and led to an unlikely birdie. He surged to a three-shot lead when Scott’s touch with the putter vanished. Even with two bogeys on the last three holes — he missed a 4-foot par putt on the 18th — Every still closed with a 2-under 70.
The last bogey made him sweat out the finish. Keegan Bradley, who birdied the 16th and 17th holes, had a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th that would have forced a playoff. It was similar to the putt Tiger Woods has made so often to win at Bay Hill. Bradley’s putt stayed left of the hole, and he finished one shot behind.
Every finished at 13-under 275, one shot ahead of Bradley, who needed two late birdies for a 72. Scott was third.
In his 92nd start as a pro on the PGA Tour, Every finally won at just the right time and just the right place.
The 30-year-old who grew up 90 minutes away in Daytona Beach used to come to Bay Hill as a kid to watch the tournament. And he beat the Masters champion to earn his own spot in the Masters next month.
“Being close to winning out here, it can be kind of discouraging because if you don’t win, you just wonder if it’s ever going to happen,” Every said. “And sometimes you tell yourself, ‘Well, maybe it’s meant to be somewhere else, somewhere better.’ I don’t see how it could get much better than this — being so close to where I grew up and all the fans out there that were cheering me on. It was awesome.”
It was a nightmare for Scott.
He shattered the Bay Hill record by taking a seven-shot lead after 36 holes and still led by three shots over Bradley going into Sunday. His putting stroke betrayed him. Scott made only five bogeys over 54 holes. He made five on Sunday alone. And he didn’t make a birdie over the last 14 holes for a 76.
“I’m annoyed that I didn’t do better today,” Scott said. “Sometimes you’ve got to be hard on yourself. Sometimes you don’t. And I think I was getting into a really good spot, and an opportunity here to run away with an event and really take a lot of confidence. I’m taking confidence anyway, from just some good play. But some opportunities you’ve got to take.”
Cocky by nature, Every choked back tears when he realized he had won.
“It’s hard,” he said, stopping to compose himself. “It’s tough, man. You just never know if it’s going to happen. You get there so many times. It’s nice to get it done.”
He made it hard on himself.
Every had a three-shot lead on the par-5 16th hole — the easiest at Bay Hill — when he drove into the woods, hit a tree trying to pitch out, laid up short of the water to play it safe and had to grind out a bogey. Scott, playing in the final group behind him, drilled 6-iron to 20 feet for an eagle putt that would have tied him for the lead.
He three-putted for par.
It was the second time in six tournaments that Scott lost a big lead on the last day. He had a four-shot advantage in the Australian Open and lost on the final hole to Rory McIlroy. This time, he didn’t even have a realistic chance playing the 18th.
“I really think the putting has let me down on both of those occasions,” Scott said. “Today was a bit shaky. But this course was asking a lot of everyone today, and my short game just wasn’t there. So that needs to be tightened up and probably shows that I need to do a bit more work on it to hold up under the pressure.”
Scott finished alone in third. He had to win Bay Hill to reach No. 1 in the world ranking when he arrived at Augusta National. Now, the No. 1 spot that Woods has held for the last year will be up for grabs at the Masters among Woods, Scott and Henrik Stenson, who tied for fifth at Bay Hill.
Until Sunday, about the only time Every made news on the PGA Tour was when he was arrested and jailed on a misdemeanor drug possession charge at the 2010 John Deere Classic after agents were called to a casino hotel because of a strong odor of marijuana coming from the room he was in.
Every paid the price with a three-month suspension that kept him from retaining his PGA Tour card. He once said earning his card back was his greatest achievement, though that sure takes a seat back to his win at Bay Hill.
“It’s just cool that I can say that I won on the PGA Tour,” Every said. “But I always felt like my game was plenty good enough to win out here.”