Sports

Matt Every prevails at Arnold Palmer Invitational

Matt Every sinks an 18-foot putt on the final hole to secure victory at Arnold Palmer Invitational

There was drama on the 72nd hole at Bay Hill on Sunday, Matt Every made sure of it.

Every rolled in a 17-foot birdie putt on the final hole of the Arnold Palmer Invitational to join Tiger Woods and Hall of Fame member Payne Stewart as the only players to win at Bay Hill with closing birdies.

"You watch tournaments on TV and guys make a 20-footer on the last and everybody goes nuts," Every said. "It's cool to close one out like that."

To give himself a chance, Every hit a towering eight-iron from 174 yards over water on No. 18, the ball coming to rest behind the flag and on the back of the green.

On Every's way to the ball, a spectator helped him with his read.

"This guy in the crowd kept coughing like, 'Straight putt, straight putt,' " Every said. "I was like this guy is a real [jerk] if he's lying to me because it's a pretty important moment."

Every's downhill putt never wavered. The ball banged into the back of the cup to give him a finishing six-under-par 66, tied with Zach Johnson for Sunday's low round, and a 19-under 269 total.

"Really a cool moment," Every, 31, said.

Woods turned the par-four 18th hole at Bay Hill into one of the coolest settings in golf, jarring long winning birdie putts during three of his record eight victories in Palmer's event.

Every, who attended Bay Hill as a youngster, knows Woods' heroics well.

"It's cool to make one on 18," Every said. "You always see those replays and stuff."

Every, Henrik Stenson and Morgan Hoffmann were tied at 18-under with Every on the 12th hole, and Stenson and Hoffmann leaving the 11th green.

Stenson moved into the lead with a birdie on the par-five 12th, where Every got a par and Hoffmann a bogey to fall out of the lead.

Hoffmann, the 36-hole leader by three shots, never recovered on his way to a back-nine 39, capped by a double-bogey on the final hole.

After dominating the first two days, Hoffmann was seemingly in command after he birdied the difficult par-four eighth hole. Hoffmann's fifth birdie on the front nine left Stenson trailing by two strokes and Every by three.

"Up until the last nine, it was pretty good," Hoffmann said of his play at the event.

Although Hoffmann went south on the back nine, Stenson had his chances to win.

Stenson birdied No. 12 for the lead. But consecutive three-putts, for bogey at the par-four 15th and par at the par-five 16th, opened the door for Every.

"Those two three-putts there … that's what cost me the tournament," Stenson said.

A three-putt par at No. 16 could have derailed Every, who began the round ranked No. 96 in the world, but he kept his cool — until the final putt.

After a fist pump, Every bent over, hands on knees, to compose himself. He then headed to the practice green to see whether Stenson could match him.

When Stenson failed, Every picked up his second PGA Tour win, a $1.134-million check, a three-year exemption and his second trip to the Masters.

Every said a return to Augusta National next month was his first thought as Stenson's 22-foot putt missed on the high side of the cup.

"It feels great," Every said.

egthompson@tribpub.com

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