There was a little bit of deja vu for Matt Every on Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. A year ago, he entered the final round trailing by four strokes and ended up hoisting the trophy when it was all said and done. This year, he overcame a three-shot deficit, posting a six-under 66 to successfully defend his title and beating 54-hole leader Henrik Stenson by one stroke.
Every came up in the clutch on the difficult par-4 18th. Faced with a downhill 17-footer for birdie to take the lead, he made it for what turned out to be for the win. He even had some help from a friendly fan.
“I walked up to the green and this guy in the crowd kept coughing, like, ‘straight putt, straight putt,’ like that,” said Every. “I was like, this guy is really a dick if he’s lying to me because it’s a pretty important moment.
“I looked over it pretty hard and I didn’t see anything. So I was like, it was a great putt to have under pressure, too, because I literally had to get it going, it wasn’t going to come up short. I put it on a decent line and hung in there. I thought it might — the last three feet I was begging for it to hang and I was like, ‘Gosh, these are the ones that always lip out. Be so cool to see this one dive in,’ and it did. Really a cool moment.”
Every, who started working with Sean Foley a few months ago, felt like he went backwards after his win, but now, he thinks he’s headed in the right direction again. After he won last year at Bay Hill, he showed up to his Masters debut thinking he could win, but ended up missing the cut. He made a few other changes, like dedicating himself to fitness, and building a team around him to support him, including Foley.
With this victory, Every earns a return trip back to the Masters.
“That’s the first thing when Henrik missed that putt, that was the number one thing on my mind, like, you’re already in,” he said, laughing. “That’s it. I need to get in. But, no, it’s all the majors, man.
“Last year after I won I made everything last year here and my game peaked. I played well for a while, right up to here and after here kind just declined and there’s some huge tournaments — Augusta, the Players, I mean, just huge events and I didn’t have my stuff in any of them. It was pretty frustrating.
“So I’m looking forward to this year coming up. My game being able to play those events and hitting a little better than I was the year before.
“Last year in China at the HSBC, it was embarrassing how bad I hit the ball. It was terrible. I’m playing with these guys who are top-50 in the world and I’m thinking, I never done this in my life and I’m thinking these guys are probably like, ‘This guy sucks, how is he here?’
“But it’s cool to be back and heading the same direction, but it’s a different direction at the same time.”
If you haven’t figured out by now, Matt Every’s press conferences are pretty epic.
Q. One guy that has made a lot of his putts is Tiger. I’m sure you’ve seen him do it. Any added significance doing that at a place he’s done that a few times?
Every: Actually, I told him when he wasn’t going to play this week, I said, ‘Don’t worry, man, I’ll hold it down for you until you get back.’ It’s cool to make one on 18. You always see those replays and stuff.”
Q. I was walking with you yesterday and heard (your family and friends) enjoying themselves out there.
Every: Yes. They drink enough for me and I don’t drink.
Q: One, the second shot at 16 and what actually happened on 16? Can you just talk about that for a second?
Every: What do you mean, what happened? 3-putt?
Every: I thought something really bad happened then (laughter). Tuesday in the practice round, hit it in the bunker and went for it. In Wednesday in the pro-am, I hit it in the bunker and went for it.
I got there today and had a clean lie. Never a doubt in my mind I was going to go for the green. I hit a great shot right where I was looking, wind off the right, above my feet. I kind of had to protect a little bit and it came out perfect and then the putt, the first one, I was sitting there, I was telling myself it doesn’t break as much as you think. I’ve seen this putt before. I still fricking missed it like five feet to the right.
The next one, it was just dicey. I didn’t feel great over the putter all day, really. Five-footer, downhill, left to right, wind was blowing off the left. Just not an easy putt. I don’t think I hit that bad of a putt. I have to see the replay. Kind of sat on the lip the whole way.
Q: You’re working with Sean Foley. What has he done to help your game?
Every: I mean, he’s provided some clarity. I have a better understanding of why things work the way they do. He’s a really good friend of mine for a while. Since we started working together, we’ve got to spend more time together and he’s a really positive person. Kind of rubs off.
It’s easy to get down on yourself out here. It’s the biggest waste of time because nobody really cares. So, he’s had a really good impact on me.