American Matt Every put his name on the trophy for the first time in 93 starts on TOUR as he was victorious at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge Sunday evening in Orlando. The native Floridian fired a final round two-under-par 70 to post 12-under 276 that held off countryman Keegan Bradley by one shot. 2013 Masters champion and 54-hole leader Adam Scott finished alone in third one shot further back.
It took 93 events but Matt Every has finally tasted victory on the PGA TOUR and he had to run over two major champions on Sunday to make it happen. Beginning the day four shots behind world No. 2 Adam Scott and one behind Bradley, the Daytona Beach native piled up five birdies against only one bogey in his first 15 holes on Saturday to build a three-shot lead. While Scott and Bradley spun their respective tires, Every, facing the pressure of closing out his first victory, left the door cracked with bogeys on Nos. 16 and 18. Scott couldn’t take advantage as his putter checked out but Bradley had 29 feet to force a playoff on the final hole. His putt didn’t find the hole and the handshake from The King, Arnold Palmer, plus the trophy, were all his. So is an invitation to Augusta next month!
Every might have sensed it was his day after his tee shot on No. 9 on Sunday rode the inside of the cart path. The outside of the cart path is OB. #whew. If that didn’t convince him it was his day, maybe the bunker shot on No. 17 off the flag did. Every’s week was nothing short of fantastic and the final margin of victory hardly shows how good he was over the four days. He was T1 in birdies with 21 and only made eight bogeys, including zero during his Saturday 66. He finished T7 in GIR and was third in BOTH strokes gained-putting and putts per GIR. He made five birdies in three rounds and six on Saturday. He didn’t make a double or worse and that always helps, especially when looking for victory No. 1!
He was forced to chase and make birdies on Sunday and he was up to the challenge. Coming into the week, I argued that Every was playing the most consistent golf of his career as he hit the top 25 in all three of his last starts, including two top 10s. Last week’s T8 in Tampa backed up his T24 at Honda and T6 at Riviera so form wasn’t the question at hand. Hunting down, catching AND passing two young, stud, major champions was the question and boy did he answer.
Every was a three-time All-American who walked-on at Florida and capped his college experience by winning four college tournaments along with being named the 2006 Ben Hogan Award winner. He represented the US on winning Walker and Palmer Cup teams so his pedigree has rarely been questioned.
His attitude, though, has been.
We remember the uncomfortable interview at the Sony Open where he was asked about his marijuana arrest and subsequent suspension. We also remember that he earned his card on the Web.com Tour in 2011 to regain his playing privileges. We remember that he remarked at one point that he didn’t really mind if he had to slam the trunk on Friday because he enjoyed his time at home. We remember that he’s been close a few times but has never closed the deal, including Disney World and Valero.
Now, gamers need to remember that he closed the deal in front of the King, by flying past not one, but TWO, major champions in the prime of their careers. Maybe Every is entering the prime of his career as well. I can easily make this argument. Gamers knew going into this season that he was a bargain in year-long salary cap games. The issue was the week-to-week rosters about when he should or shouldn’t be in the lineup. In his last four events he’s finished T6, T24, T8 and WIN so he’s rewarded those who bought in this week. He was in my Yahoo! B group and Group 3 in the golfchannel.com game.
With his victory, Every collects $1,116,000, 500 FedExCup Points and will play in his first Masters next month at Augusta.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the first 17 of 19 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson, Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley and Matt Every have collected the hardware this year for the stars and stripes. John Senden joined Jason Day last week as only Australia is representing the rest of the world.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14 nine of 18 leaders have gone on to win on Sunday. For the second week in a row, the 54-hole leader couldn’t do the business. This week was even more surprising as Adam Scott had a seven shot lead after 36 holes and a three shot lead heading into Sunday.
This was the 37th edition of the API. There have now been 32 winners from the U.S.A.
Chesson Hadley was in the top five entering Sunday before his final round 79 knocked him out. First-timers, no matter how hot they are, struggle on this track.
Martin Laird remains the only Euro to win this event. Let’s play the Ryder Cup here!
The only player to go wire-to-wire (no ties) here was Fred Couples in 1992. Pretty good year, that, for Freddie!
For the week, 42 players broke par but the scores went the wrong way as the wind picked up and the greens dried out. Bay Hill presented a great test of golf as did all of the stops on the Florida Swing!
Only six players had four rounds of par or better.
Young Guns versus Prime Time versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every turned 30 last December so he has been “bumped” up to the Prime Time crew. They sit just one victory behind the Young Guns for bragging rights.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) are the twenty-somethings on the board. That’s nine wins from 19 events this year from the up-and-comers!
The Old Guys couldn’t fire up after seeing John Senden’s victory last week at Tampa. The man that time forgot, Vijay Singh, 52, found time to rattle off a T20 this week to pace the old folks. #ballstriker
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10 this week
Keegan Bradley: Well, it wasn’t the victory that gamers were craving but it was a performance in absolutely the right direction. He should have been on the rosters of most gamers in the Yahoo! game and was an excellent choice in Group 2 in the GolfChannel.com game as Rob Bolton showed us. Rob had first and second this week, the bast@rd! Gamers didn’t like that Bradley leaked oil as he began three over through three but it’s the rally I point to looking back. These guys have so much money, etc. that it NEVER surprises me when they don’t fire on Sunday after some adversity. Bradley showed why he’s on the roster most every week he’s playing because he’ll grind until the last putt. That’s why I’m on board. He birdied two of the last three to claim second alone, his best finish since T2 at WGC-BI last August. He’ll need a few more of these (or wins) to move up the Ryder Cup list as well. He entered the week at No. 31. Bradley backed up his T3 last year with solo second this year.
Adam Scott: I get it, OK. He’s awesome. He’s a fantastic ball-striker. He’s got the best caddy in the game. As gamers, we have to remember that he could care LESS about winning golf tournaments that are not majors. He said as much in an interview aired during the round. He said that this “victory” would have no bearing on anything in his game moving forward except for being a “nice bonus” as he gears up for Augusta. Maybe I’m just upset because I left him off my rosters this week. I’m not nearly as mad as the folks who had him though. His seven shot lead turned into three and that was gone halfway through Sunday. It’s not surprising that his putter was the issue. We learned that Scott is trending to fire at the majors. I believe him.
Jason Kokrak: The Coat Rack was looking for his first win as well as a pro but a birdie-less inward 38 saw him settle for solo fourth instead. Kokrak also racked up 21 birdies, same as Every, but he carded one more bogey and a double and that turned out to be the difference. He’s rewarding season-long investors with his consistency as he’s made eight of 11 weekends and seven of those have been in the top 25. This is his best finish since T3 at Tiger’s Tournament last July. He must like difficult courses. I’m writing that down. He’s trending in the right direction as well as his last three weeks have seen him finish T41 at Honda, T14 at Valspar and solo fourth this week. Let’s see, Valero is a tough, long track where par is a good score…
Henrik Stenson: I wrote in the preview that he was my “Louisville/Michigan State” seed this week and he proved he was “under-seeded” with his T5 finish. As long as his wrist remains static, I’ll endorse him because of performances like this. This is the second Sunday (WGC-CC) in a row where he’s posted one of the lowest rounds of the day. He moved up 10 spots into the top five after his sizzling 68. In his last three starts at Bay Hill, he’s finished T15, T8 and now T5. Time to get back on board!
Erik Compton: Coming down the stretch, he’d like to have a couple shots back but his T5 is his second best finish on TOUR since his T4 at Honda in 2013. He’s a fantastic story but he hasn’t, for me, rang the bell enough to have him on the radar week in and week out. For gamers playing deep roster weekly games, he has made the cut in seven straight and he was only one of six this week to play all four round at par or better. #trending
Francesco Molinari: He racked up 15 pars, two bogeys and a birdie on Sunday to fire 73 and remain in a tie for fifth. The Italian is a wonderful ball-striker and can grind out pars. His 54 pars this week were T2. The harder the golf, the more I would lean to inserting him into my lineups. He doesn’t play enough events to warrant a full-time position in shallow leagues but he’s a solid fill for deep, seasonal games and weekly fliers on tough tracks.
Brandt Snedeker: Welcome back, Opie! For the first time in 12 events (T8, BMW last September), Sneds has returned to the top 10 with his T8 at API. Gamers, raise your hand if you thought after his 74 on Saturday that he would have made this column after Sunday. Now, keep your hands up if you are lying! Snedeker’s annual early-season injury ritual included a knee problem after he fell off a Segway in China in November. He fired 64 at Humana to provide some false hope and then found another 64 in Phoenix just to taunt gamers even more. Saturday, he missed every putt he looked at, no matter the distance. Sunday was exactly the opposite. He’s heading to Sea Island to work with Todd Anderson to sharpen up the short game for Augusta. I’m still in a holding pattern moving forward, especially if his next start is the Masters.
Ryo Ishikawa: Ah, the youth. They’ve been driving gamers crazy since the beginning of Rotisserie leagues began and Ishikawa is no exception. For the third time in three starts, he’s cracked the top 25. In eight cuts made this season, seven have found the top 25. I learned that he’s no longer pushing himself in off-the-course activities and focusing more on his well-being on the golf course. His body was always aching with niggling injuries that just wouldn’t heal. Now that he’s addressed that and corrected it, the 22-year old Japanese is trying to develop more consistency. I’m not completely sold, YET, as he MC the three events before this streak, plus the streak happened on courses where he’s had plenty of experience and successes. He’ll interest me more in “off-week” events.
Sean O’Hair: He took advantage of making the cut on the number by firing 69-67, which included playing his final 14 holes in SEVEN-under! This was his ninth time at Bay Hill and this is his third top 10 (T10) to go along with his solo second (2009) and T3 (2008). In six previous events in 2014, O’Hair MC three times and his best finish was T49. #blindsquirrelsandacornsandallthat
Graeme McDowell: His T10 sees him hit the top 10 for the third time in seven tries. The only blemish this week was his second round 77. Via Twitter, he told us that his driver on Friday was responsible for one OB, one water, one bunker, three rough and four fairways. He had 11 driver swings on Saturday and found 11 fairways. That’s how you turn 77 into 67. He was pushing even further up the leaderboard on Sunday before a bogey on No. 15 and a double on No. 17. He has four top 10s in five starts in 2014. #buybuybuy
J.B. Holmes: His T10 was his best TOUR finish since T8 at SHO in 2012. His medical issues have been well documented and almost never-ending but his has shown signs of his “old self” this season has he’s made the weekend in six of seven events. I’m glad he’s recovered from brain surgery and ankle issues but until he starts racking, I’m staying away. To be brutally honest, I can’t get emotional about a top 10 on track where he’s now eight-for-eight in his career.
Freddie Jacobson: As I wrote in the preview, The Junk Man had finishes of T12 at Honda and T20 at Valspar with rounds OVER par on Sunday. Any guesses on what he shot this Sunday? Yeah, over-par again. This included three bogeys on the last five holes to take him from T5 to T10. He’s is trending in the right direction and has a massive, massive history at TPC San Antonio. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Justin Rose: The ONLY positive I can find about Rose this week is that I did NOT pull the trigger on him in my OAD. He played great last time out. He loves Bay Hill. It just didn’t happen. Well, it did, actually, 79 times on Friday to MC.
Bubba Watson: Rory McIlroy had “wisdom teeth” problems in Florida. Watson has “allergy problems” in Florida. Remember this: Gamers will NEVER care if pros WD BEFORE the round. We’re a fickle bunch, I know…
Adam Scott: Solo third, see above.
Gary Woodland: He moved up 16 places on Sunday with a 70 that included 16 pars and two bogeys. He’s now finished T16, T8 and T20 this week in his Florida Swing. Like Bradley, it’s only a matter of time before he kicks down the door.
Graeme McDowell: T10, see above.
Zach Johnson: T43 as he never got it going as he left his putter at home. There were 76 players. Johnson finished 73rd in strokes gained-putting. #anomaly
Patrick Reed: His 77 on Sunday killed any chances on a backdoor anything but the one thing I’ll take from this week was his ability to laugh at himself. NBC did a “who’s the best five players in the world” vignette on “Jake’s Takes” and Reed continued to say “me” every time he was asked who should be ranked in the top five. He could have told NBC that he’s not doing it. He did. He had a laugh. #lightenupFrancis
Harris English: Talking about backdooring it on Sunday, English moved up 28 spots with his final round 68. The most impressive part of his round was the ball he hit OB on a par three. He hit the next one from the tee to nine feet. He missed the putt for a double. He surrounded that with four other bogeys to shoot 75 on Saturday. Read the first sentence of this paragraph to see why English is on my radar every week.
Kevin Na: Wow, how sad is it that he was HECKLED by golf “fans” at Arnold Palmer’s Club and Lodge? Read that sentence over and over again. Real golf fans had his back the next day with “Worth The Wait” t-shirts supporting Na. It was also great to read about his playing partners supporting Na and his pace of play. Social media sucks sometimes. He was one of six players to play all four rounds at par or better. His T15 isn’t ideal in the OAD but it’s a hell of a lot better than MC.
Hunter Mahan: WD after a handful of holes on Sunday morning with a hip injury. Keep your eyes on the golf section at Rotoworld.com for updates.
Keegan Bradley: Solo second, see above.
Will MacKenzie: His T43 included three rounds at par or better so the bloom is still on this flower for me.
George McNeill: Another great finish from Mr. Florida as the Naples resident posted T12 at Honda, seventh last week at Valspar and T14 this week at API. His last five starts on TOUR have registered T19 or better. I hope you have enjoyed this ride. I’ll be more surprised if it continues. Who does he think he is, Will MacKenzie?
Matt Every: Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
John Senden: Too much respect given for a guy who won last week for the first time in over 200 events. His worst finish at API in nine starts. Normal service resumed.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Valero Texas Open and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.