When you win the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the big prize is an audience with the man himself. The exorbitant check – this year being $1,116,000 – that comes with it is due in large part to the man who has spent the majority of his 84 years building the PGA Tour into what it is.
So an inquiring mind can’t be blamed for wondering: What would have happened had Matt Every, after making the recent API his first win, thanked Palmer, then said: “Oh, and by the way, I’m withdrawing from next week’s tournament. You OK with that?”
Here’s a guess Palmer might have snatched back the check and put one of his massive hands around the back of Every’s neck and said, “Young man, learn to do the right thing.”
To many, the right thing would have been for Every to honor his commitment to the Valero Texas Open. But Every, 30, elected to withdraw. For good measure, he also withdrew from this week’s Shell Houston Open, and while Matt Kuchar and Pat Perez were colleagues who said they weren’t offended by Every’s move, it just seems wrong.
Sure, Every had just earned his first berth into the Masters and naturally wants to be prepared. Play Valero, your third straight tournament, then call in your regrets for Houston and go to Augusta National to practice. The game is bigger than any one player. At some point, how about remembering you’re a professional? How about acknowledging the sponsors, who make those courtesy cars and massive checks possible? (A little history is needed here; in 2012, Every earned a $545,600 check for placing second at the Valero. Talk about gratitude.)
Unfortunately, this sort of thing happens more and more frequently. Patrick Reed, for instance, got a sponsor exemption into the Valero two years ago, but was not in attendance this year. It was a topic of conversation with Peter Jacobsen after he stopped by to say hello to Jim Furyk and he just shook his head.
Jacobsen agreed that a guy like Furyk wouldn’t do such a thing, that it’s the younger guys who seem not to get it.
“When I broke in, I had one leg in Arnold’s generation,” said Jacobsen, “and when Jim broke in, he had one leg in my generation. But with every generation we get further removed.”
Would playing Valero have hindered Every’s Masters preparation? Perhaps. But it would have enhanced his character.