HONOLULU — Matt Every feels like a rookie again on the PGA Tour. He can only hope it turns out better.
Two years ago, the ultra-confident Floridian missed six weeks in the spring with a broken finger.
In the summer, the PGA Tour suspended him for three months following his arrest during the John Deere Classic on a misdemeanor drug charge. Agents were called to a casino hotel because of a strong odor of marijuana coming from the room he was in.
Every apologized in a statement for showing poor judgment that week. After his 6-under 64 on Friday gave him a two-shot lead in the Sony Open, he blamed police for the way the arrest was handled, and questioned the length of his suspension.
He didn’t return until the final event of the year, too late for him to try to keep his card. He didn’t make it through Q-school, went back to the Nationwide Tour, and here he is back in the big leagues.
His season got off to a good start — until he walked off the course.
Every said his 64 was just “normal stuff.” After he brought up the trouble he got into in the summer of 2010, he didn’t hold back on the arrest, the suspension or how he is perceived.
“I don’t think the police handled it very well. But whatever,” Every said. “And the tour, too, man. If they would have thrown a month at me instead of three, that would have been nice.”
Did the punishment fit the crime?
“Probably,” he said. “But there’s nothing I can do about it now. I’m not bigger than the tour — never will be. It’s their call, and I did it, and it’s over with.”
Every described it as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. “Perfect storm,” he said.
He made it clear that he doesn’t do drugs and he’s not a party animal. Every is married and expecting his first child in June. But he also said very little about him has changed since that episode.
“I still hang out with the same people,” he said. “I have great friends, man. If one of my friends likes to smoke marijuana every now and then, I’m not going to say, ‘Well, you can’t be my friend anymore.’ Honestly, man, I know more people who smoke marijuana than who don’t smoke marijuana. I know that’s probably not the politically correct thing to say, but it’s the truth.”
In an awkward interview with Golf Channel on the topic, Every said he didn’t think it was a big deal.
“There’s a lot worse stuff that goes on out here than when I got in trouble for,” he said.
Asked about the outcome of the charge, Every said he had to “stay out of trouble” for a year. One of his agents at Goal Marketing, Kevin Canning, declined comment when asked how the case was disposed.
As for golf, Every made it sound as though it was just another day on manicured fairways.
“Just played good,” said Every, who was at 10-under 130. “I just didn’t make many mistakes and made some good putts, hit some good irons, just kind of normal stuff.”
His normal stuff was enough to put him atop the leaderboard through 36 holes for the first time on the PGA Tour, not bad for a guy who took four years to get to the big leagues.
He had a two-shot lead over David Hearn, who kept a Canadian presence on the leaderboard with a 66, and Carl Pettersson, who played what might have been one of the easiest par 5s ever.
Pettersson finished on the 504-yard ninth, which was playing with the unusual Kona wind.
The goal is to keep the tee shot away from a bunker and the driving range on the left, and out of the canal on the right. After that, it wasn’t really a par 5. There were 27 eagles, and the hole averaged 3.957, lower that seven of the par 4s at Waialae.
Pettersson had sand wedge for his second shot, which he hit to 10 feet for a two-putt birdie.
“It felt weird,” Pettersson said. “I freaked out. I said to my caddie, ‘Are you sure?’ It just didn’t feel right.”
He wasn’t the only player who took advantage. Erik Compton, in his first tournament as a PGA Tour member, was outside the cut line when he went birdie-eagle on the eighth and ninth holes to make the cut on the number at 1-under 139.
Brendon de Jonge switched putters to start the new season. He opened with a 71. He went back to his old putter on Friday and shot 62. That put him at 7-under 133, along with Pat Perez, who is going through a myriad of changes on and off the course and had a 67.
Also at 133 was Doug LaBelle, in the Sony Open after he made it through a Monday qualifier for the third time.
Steve Stricker, trying to become the first player since Ernie Els in 2003 to sweep the Hawaii events, was tied for the lead until he caught a plugged lie in the bunker on his 10th hole and made double bogey. He wound up with a 69, still only five shots behind.
Also five back was Tadd Fujikawa, who made a big splash on his native Oahu five years ago by making the cut at age 16.
It wasn’t long before he turned pro, but the road through the mini-tours has been tough. Fujikawa, immensely popular in these parts because of his humble background, received a late exemption and shot 66 on Friday.
Every said he is behind where he should be, attributing that to a troublesome rookie season in 2010.
He broke his finger in April, keeping him out for six weeks, then ran into trouble with the marijuana charge at the John Deere Classic. He returned to play seven more tournaments before he was suspended, and wound up 160th on the money list.
“I kind of feel like a rookie out here,” Every said. “My rookie year … I almost kept my status and played half the tournaments that everybody else played. I feel like it was a pretty good year for me. I just didn’t get to play much.”