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Golf: Every Dog Has His Day

every

Matt Every finished off a 2 under par 70 to claim his first PGA tour win at the Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Invitational yesterday. The 30 year old started the day four shots behind current Masters champion Adam Scott who was playing just behind him with another major winner Keegan Bradley.

The day belonged to Every obviously but the real news story is Scott’s collapse at the end of a week that he had looked infallible. Scott opened his scoring on Thursday with a course record equalling 62 and by the time play finished on Friday evening, the Australian had managed to open up a seven shot lead over the field, the eventual winner Matt Every was a full nine shots behind the leader at the half way point. Going into the final round, Scott had a three shot lead over his playing partner Keegan Bradley and a four shot lead over Every. Scott although a major champion after winning last year’s Masters at Augusta has shown a major chink in his armour.

This is not the first time that this has happened. The 2012 British Open saw the Australian crumble under the strain of pressure only felt by the elite of the golfing world. He handed first prize to South African Ernie Els on this occasion. More recently, Scott also let a lead slip away in the Australian Open, losing out to Rory McIlroy on the final hole. On top of the normal pressure of winning yesterday, Scott also had to deal with the consequences that the win would bring. If he had managed to seal the deal, he would have taken over the world’s top spot in golf, passing out Tiger Woods for world number one. It wasn’t to be though and he slumped to a scrappy 76, ironically the much talked about long putter and the advantages that it holds under pressure was the club that ultimately led to his downfall.

Every played steady for the day but he too looked shaky as the realisation of his first tour win caught up with him playing the last three holes. In golf there’s always a turning point, a point in the round where the winner can look back and say, that’s what won me this tournament. Bay Hill provided more than one talking point on who eventually claimed the title. For Every, the ninth hole was where it all could have gone so wrong but didn’t. His tee shot flirted dangerously with the out of bounds line, rolling beside a car path and underneath a few jumping spectators before finally coming to rest in bounds and a pitching wedge from the green. Winners take the most from their opportunities and Every left his approach to within ten feet before holing the putt. What could have been disaster turned into fortune and with Scott derailing behind him, Every now looked like the potential champion. The 16th, the easiest hole on the course would also prove to add to the list of what ifs for Scott to delve through in the coming days. Every just ahead of Scott, drove his tee shot into the woods. His chip out caught a tree and stayed in the rough leading to his caddie having to convince the 30 year old to lay up, which he eventually, reluctantly did. His approach was long and he could only manage a two putt bogey.

The three shot lead that he had on the tee was now looking under serious threat as Scott stood in the middle of the fairway with a six iron in hand. The Aussie’s approach was near perfection and he left himself with a twenty footer for eagle and more importantly, one stroke from joining Every again at the top of the leaderboard. The eagle putt looked good but straightened at the end, missing on the left and leaving what looked like an relatively easy three footer for birdie. Even his caddie Stevie Williams stood open mouthed as he watched his boss push the birdie putt past the hole. A chance to gain three strokes, he walked off only gaining one. Bradley Keegan playing somewhat under the radar birdied the same hole putting himself in position for a charge over the last two holes.

Every followed his bogey at 16 by bunkering himself from the tee on the difficult 17th. His bunker shot though was sublime to say the least, hitting the pin and somehow, unexplainably it didn’t drop but job done, par on a dangerous hole, only the monster that is 18 left to play. Adam Scott would follow Every into the same bunker but again his putting let him down, missing the par putt and ending any hope of victory. Bradley Keegan however played a brilliant shot to the green and holed the remaining putt, he had now birdied 16 and 17 and was creeping up behind the leader, ready to jump out and shout ‘BOO’ at the finish. The previous day Bradley and his evil eye had managed to birdie the last two, he looked comfortable and able.

Up ahead Every had left his tee shot to the right side of the fairway and would face the daunting second that would have to carry water the whole way to the green. His approach was solid but carried too far, leaving him in the thick rough at the back of the green. A well played, delicate chip left the champion elect with a four foot par putt. A nervy, shaky pulled putt, saw him miss two bogeys in the last three but still Keegan would have to birdie the monster 18th to tie. With Scott all eyes turned to Keegan, an emotional and shaken looking Matt Every looked on, he didn’t look like a guy that could stomach a play off. Keegan left himself a thirty foot birdie putt to tie with Every. After studying it from every angle and staring at it like he was trying to bend a spoon, he followed his routine of stepping in and stepping out before eventually committing to hitting it. The putt looked like it was on a great line, it was similar to a putt that Tiger Woods had famously holed here some years before. Unlike the Woods putt though, it stopped breaking and straightened up at the hole, missing by millimetres and allowing Matt Every to let out a huge sigh of relief. In his 92nd start as a pro, Matt Every had finally managed to claim his first PGA win, the boy who lived just ninety minutes away in Daytona Beach and used to come to Bay Hill as a youngster had at last emulated his heroes.

Adam Scott must retire to that dark place that replays the shots that cost him. He will defend his Masters title in less than a month and must somehow manage a way to banish the demons before then. This one will have hurt and hurt badly. Well done to Matt Every who by winning not only claimed the first prize cheque of $1.1 but also entry into the PGA, two World Golf Championship events and a golden ticket to next month’s showpiece, that is The Masters at Augusta.

Image courtesy of Getty/AFP

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