Every's win brings new feeling to familiar place

After his first PGA Tour victory, Matt Every accepts the trophy from Arnold Palmer at his namesake invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Fla.

ORLANDO, Fla. – When Matt Every was a young boy, Kelly Every would make the 1-hour, 15-minute drive with his son west down I-4 from Daytona Beach to Bay Hill, where the lad would chase after Mark Calcavecchia and watch the stars of tomorrow at The Place That Arnie Built.

So, as one might surmise, it was a tad surreal for Every to be the last one standing on the 18th green Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the competition finished, the tournament namesake handing him the shiny silver champion's trophy – as other little boys and girls leaned on the gallery ropes to catch a glimpse.

“Tell me,” asked Palmer, a man who raised 62 PGA Tour trophies in his day, “how does it feel?”

“I don’t feel anything,” said Every, who smiled and appeared to be numb. “You have no idea how cool it is.”

Well, maybe we have some idea. A semi-local Florida boy does good at Bay Hill, breaking through to capture his first PGA Tour title in his 93rd start. And now, at age 30, he’s off to his first Masters in a couple weeks, and soon he will be playing in all the majors, where he really can see how good he is. Matt Every, welcome to the next level.

“This does a lot for me moving forward,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how my game stacks up.”

On Sunday at Bay Hill, it stacked up quite nicely, as a closing 2-under 70 was good enough for a four-day total of 13-under 275 and a one-shot triumph over Keegan Bradley. Adam Scott, who started the weekend with a seven-shot lead and began Sunday still on top by three, faltered miserably from the front, stumbling to a round of 76. It’s not what one would expect from the man who seemed poised to take over Tiger Woods’ spot atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“Today was a bit shaky,” Scott said. “But this course was asking a lot of everyone today, I think. And my short game just wasn’t there.’

Every had three hand-atop-the-hat moments of sheer disbelief on his own down the stretch. A punch-out at the par-5 16th struck a tiny oak tree in the rough dead-center (“That tree is no wider than my leg,” he sighed), kicked straight back in the rough, and led to a second layup short of the pond fronting the par 5. Bogey. A brilliant up-and-down for par at 17 (where his bunker shot hit the center of the pin and stayed out of the hole) was followed by yet one more deft pitch from long and left at 18 that went for naught as he slid a 4-footer for par past the hole.

When a hard-charging Bradley could not convert a 29-footer for birdie at the last, victory – finally – belonged to Every. He’d been patiently waiting.

With four top-eight finishes already in this wrap-around PGA Tour season, Every finally had allowed himself to think about winning, a concept that is quite rare for those who toil on this Tour without surnames such as Woods and Mickelson. Every, a former All-America standout at the University of Florida, last hoisted a trophy at the 2009 Nationwide Tour Championship. At times, from a standpoint of winning, this game gives you little more than crumbs.

“Golf is totally different than any other sport,” Every said. “You’re used to losing out here. You lose every week, pretty much. And sometimes you forget what it feels like to win. And it was just . . . it’s nice to have that feeling again.”

Sometimes it just takes a bounce here, a break there, that can be the difference between tapping on a door and knocking it down. Every, once a Golf Channel “Big Break” contestant, encountered a nice dose of fortune at the arduous, par-4 ninth, where he pulled his tee shot left, into the trees and into a hardscrabble area where drives easily can careen out of bounds. Instead, he walked up to find his ball not only survived, but was sitting just fine, 134 yards from the hole. His approach settled 15 feet away, and he made the birdie putt to erase the bogey he’d just made one hole earlier. With Scott and Bradley, the day’s final pairing, about to make the turn in 38 and 37, respectively, Every then would birdie three of his next four holes to seize control.

Every has had his ups and downs on the PGA Tour. He was suspended for three months in 2010 after being charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession inside a room at a casino while at the John Deere Classic (charges later were dropped). But it led to Every losing his card and having to go back to the minors to regain it. If anyone wants to hang a “partier” label on him, he scoffs at it, for most nights, the husband and father of an infant boy, Liam, says he is early to bed and early to rise. Confident in his own abilities, he also, at times, has carried a reputation as being arrogant. (“I just don’t see it,” Every shrugs. “If telling the truth is arrogance, then, whatever.”)

Every had a 3-minute interview with Golf Channel at the Sony Open at the start of 2012 in which he was asked about his misdemeanor drug charges, and it was so awkward and went so poorly that the interview became a YouTube sensation.

Said his long-time manager, Kevin Canning, “He’s been through a lot. I don’t think he thought he was treated very fairly. He felt he was a punching bag. There are guys out here who do bad interviews every week, and he really felt he got singled out.”

Though winning is great, Every said it’s not as if he’ll now believe in himself more than he did before. It’s a tough game, and it can be a lonely, solitary journey, and he sees nothing wrong in believing strongly in his talent and where it might take him.

“I knew my good stuff was good,” he said. “I won’t lie to myself. . . . I know when I play well that I’m very good.

“What’s wrong in believing in yourself? There’s so many sensitive people that just get all torn up on the dumbest stuff. It’s OK to believe in yourself.”

And it’s OK to watch one of your wildest dreams come true right before your eyes, too. The little boy who used to visit Bay Hill, now all grown and the father of a little boy of his own, standing on the 18th green with Arnold Palmer, getting handed the legend’s namesake trophy, with his parents proudly looking on. For Matthew King Every, a kid from nearby Daytona Beach, and from the University of Florida, it doesn’t get a whole lot better than standing there next to golf’s own royalty.

No wonder the beer taps were running and the celebration was raucous back home at Riviera Country Club, north of Daytona Beach in Ormond Beach, the place where Every grew up playing.

“Being close to winning out here, I mean 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 on the other side, you tell yourself, well, maybe it’s meant to be somewhere else, somewhere better. And I don’t see how it can get much better than this.”

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