Matt Every fired a closing round six-under-par 66, including a birdie on the 72nd hole, to post 19-under 269 to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Master Card at Bay Hill Club and Lodge for the second year in a row. Every held off 54-hole leader and world No. 3 Henrik Stenson by one shot as the Swede’s putter went ice cold. Australian Matt Jones rounded out the podium one shot farther behind on 267.
Every, who defeated Keegan Bradley here last year by a shot after world power Adam Scott couldn’t hold his 54-hole lead, almost went through déjà vu again in 2015. Stenson began the round with two-shot lead over Morgann Hoffmann and Every found himself three behind to open the final round. Last year he had to make up five shots on the final 18 so he was no strange to this position on a course where he’s already been there, done that.
Every opened his round with bogey on No. 1 and fell even farther behind but the next 17 holes were excellent. He remarked after the round that the only reason he won here laset year was because he made everything on the greens. This year, he said the quietest part of his game was his putter put it all came together to close the deal.
Every is going to be one of a few who will be disappointed that Palmer is going to re-grass all 18 greens starting in May. This week the putting surfaces weren’t nearly as slick and pin positions weren't nearly as difficult. Mother Nature won this winter in Orlando and the course, especially the greens, wasn’t in ideal tournament shape. The greens weren’t cut down until Sunday as Palmer didn’t want to see this place get runover but the damage was already done. Also, the Florida winds that blow this time of year hardly factored, relatively speaking, so Bay Hill was there for the taking.
Why This Performance Doesn’t Surprise
Well, HE WON HERE LAST YEAR!!! Make it eight rounds in a row that are 70 or better for the Orlando resident and there’s not a doubt he likes this track. There was no pressure on the defending champ as entering the week his form was nothing short of poor and HEY, LOOK! IS THAT RORY MCILROY PLAYING FOR THE FIRST TIME HERE?? It also didn’t hurt that four of the top five players in the world were teeing it up.
Why This Performance Surprises
Well, there’s plenty here so let’s get going.
In nine events in 2015 he’s made six cuts but his best finish was T27 in a 33 player field (HTOC). He did rattle off three cuts in a row at Torrey, Riviera and Honda but his best finish was T49; his best round in that streak was 70.
Last week at Valspar he birdied the first hole on Thursday. The next 35 holes he made 11 bogeys and zero birdies. He shot 73-79 and managed only 42% fairways and 56% GIR. His putts per GIR were 2.000 and he was -2.947 SGP.
His last top 25 was 18 events ago at the 2014 FESJC where he was T3. His best finish in his final eight events of the 2014 season was T39. He carded an 86 at the second FedExCup Playoff event, the DBC. His last round in the 60s in 2015 was his first before knocking all four in the 60s this week in victory. He played 28 rounds in a row at 70 or better so anyone who saw this coming other than Matt Every, I’m not buying it.
How Every Won This Week
He was the only player to post all four rounds in the 60s this week (68-66-69-66).
His 66 on Sunday was the T-low round of the day and second lowest on the week.
After racking up 21 birdies last year to co-lead the field he added four more this time for the same result, T1 and another win.
He made eight bogeys last year and only six this time around. He didn’t make anything worse than bogey for the week either. He didn’t have any bogeys after the first hole Sunday, playing the last 17 holes seven-under. #Sizzle
He led the field in strokes gained total and was second in tee-to-green. He was second in GIR and a very solid T29 in fairways. No putt was more important than the one he holed on the final green. He’s just the fifth winner to birdie No. 18 on Sunday to win the tournament.
Entering this week last year Every was playing great golf and his win just iced that cake. As mentioned above he has been really struggling since early June of last summer. The tonic seemed to be a home crowd and familiar track where he’s had his best memories in golf. His family was waiting greenside after the round and there was no hiding who the gallery was pulling for coming down the stretch. It took Every 93 events to break his maiden. He needed just 24 more to add victory No. 2.
Gamers love consistency and Every hasn’t brought that. Gamers are always interested to see how winning effects the first-timer because it is a life-changing experience, like having kids. After his win last season he had a T12 and T3 and nothing better than T39 so that’s not exactly a confidence builder in 2015.
Entering the week he was 195 in fairways, 210 GIR and 198 in scoring average. It all came together this week but I’m not wiping the slate clean and clearing out a spot for him. He’s earned a closer look because of his pedigree but I’ll leave the permanent marker in my Trapper Keeper for now.
With This Win:
Every returns to the Masters in three weeks and extends his exemption until 2019. He’ll have the freedom to pick and choose his schedule moving forward. He also pockets $1,134,000 and 500 FedExCup points.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After 28 wins in 45 events last season, the USA continues its dominance this year. Brooks Koepka, Bill Haas, Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Charley Hoffman, Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Robert Streb, Ben Martin, Brandt Snedeker, James Hahn (born in Korea; US citizen), Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Every are the USA champs. Alex Cejka (Germany), Paddy Harrington (Ireland), Sang-moon Bae (Korea), Nick Taylor (Canada) and Jason Day (Australia) are the five international winners in the first 19 events.
Only Haas, Bae, Martin, Moore and Walker have closed their 54-hole leads. Walker is the only person on BOTH sides of his list as he couldn’t close out his lead at Kapalua. The last NINE players who’ve held the 54-hole lead have not closed the deal. Stenson was by far the best of that bunch and is the only one to break par on Sunday. Not a group that guys are lining up to be members…That makes it 13 of 19 who have been unable to hold down the fort in 2014-15. Golf is hard.
After 13 first-time winners in 2013 there were only 10 last year. After 19 events in 2015, Martin, Streb, Taylor, Koepka, Hahn and Cejka have made their breakthroughs.
Payne Stewart’s 264 is the event record. Every and Woods (-13) shared the “new” record after the 2009 renovation. Every’s 269 today will close this edition as the tournament “record”. I won’t be using historical data as heavily next year because all 18 greens will be newly grassed and hole No. 16, as Mr. Palmer told us on the coverage, is going to change dramatically.
Since the redesign, Bay Hill rated in the top 16 of the most difficult courses on TOUR. This year the cut was minus-two, the lowest ever and 61 players finished the week under par. The added landing areas off the tee and removal of rough and tree limbs seemed to help. So did the absence of multiple pin positions and slower greens!
There have been 37 APIs. There have been 33 American winners.
This was the first week since Pebble Beach that there wasn’t a playoff on TOUR. This pleases me.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
I annually keep track of the age of the winners on TOUR because I’m an ageist. GET OFF MY VIAGRA.
Bae got the youngsters (under 30) on the board first in 2014-15 followed by Martin and Streb, both 27. Nick Taylor, 26, popped in to close out 2014 at SFC. Reed joined the party at a whopping 24 at HTOC followed by Koepka, 25 in Phoenix and Jason Day, 27, at Torrey Pines. Spieth comes to the rescue this week to try and spark the youngsters back to their winning ways. It’s now seven winners in 19 events this year.
Every, who just turned 31 in December, joins Dustin Johnson (30), James Hahn (33), Brandt Snedeker (34), Bill Haas (32), Jimmy Walker (36), Charley Hoffman (37), Bubba Watson (36) and Ryan Moore (31) as the prime time guys with silverware (30-39 years).
The old guys (40 and over) are all bowing down to Paddy Harrington as he defeated 21-year old Daniel Berger at Honda. According to Dave Sheldoski (@DaveSheldoski) on Twitter, Els received a putting tip from former pro Larry Rinker. Els made 21 birdies on the week, good enough for T4 after making 18 birdies in his last FOUR starts. Ok…
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10 this week:
Henrik Stenson: Most gamers probably thought this was in the bag once the first tee ball was airborne on Sunday. He made it look easy the first three rounds and he had a two-shot lead entering the final round. He had three bogeys entering Sunday. He got up 15 times out of 17 chances. He hit 80% of fairways and 76% GIR. He was first in strokes gained tee to green. Stenson had four, three-putts on the week and three of them came on Sunday, none more costly on the easiest hole on the course, No. 16. He finished the week T16 in putts per GIR so that wasn’t a problem either. He didn’t win. Golf is hard and so is winning golf tournaments. Stenson is seven from seven at Bay Hill and his last three have been T8, T5 and solo second this year. Gamers will be disappointed he didn’t close the deal but he did pretty much what we all believed he would, contend and cash a big check. His last three events have been T4, fourth and second. What’s Swedish for ON MAYJAH FIYAH?
Matt Jones: The Aussie continued his excellent start to 2015 by playing the final three rounds in 16-under to hit the top 10 for the second time in his last three events. His solo third is his best finish since his playoff chip-in against Matt Kuchar last spring in Houston. This was the third consecutive year he’s made the cut at API (T50, T14) and he did it by birdieing five of his final 11 holes, including three of his last four. He played the back nine 12-under in his final three rounds and posted zero bogeys coming home those three days. He also made 25 birdies to tie Every for the most on the week. He was T5 in fairways and T7 in SGP and that led to third in SGT. He needs to be on the radar if he isn’t already.
Morgan Hoffmann: After eight holes on Sunday the former OSU Cowboy (could you tell by his outfit?) had a two-shot lead and was five-under for the day. And then he sprayed one from the middle of the fairway on No. 9 that led to a lip-out bogey. He played his final 10 holes four-OVER par, including a double (OB tee shot) on the final hole to cost him $$$. Hoffmann will learn from it and get better but remember he entered the week 210 in fairways and 200 GIR. We know he’s long and can really putt. Seems that’s the “new” prototype for the under-26 crew. This is his best finish since he closed 62-63 for solo third at Cherry Hills at the BMW. Write this down for next year: He began the final round in 2014 T8 and shot 78 to finish T35. This year he was second and shot 71 to finish fourth playing next to the No. 3 player in the world. He’s played 88 pro events (TOUR & Web.com) and has never closed a deal after a successful amateur career.
Ben Martin: After a streak of T50-T41-MC-MC-T31, only the gamiest of gamers would have looked at Martin’s closing 65 at Honda three weeks ago and connected the dots this week in Orlando. Whatever he did figure out at Honda he transferred over to API as he finished fifth after posting three rounds in the 60s before a Sunday 71 slowed him down. Gamers, Martin made one bogey his first three rounds (Saturday) but his opening 39 on Sunday saw him fade. He rebounded coming home in 32 to jump back into the top 10 and solo fifth. His stats are very steady and if the game was played on paper, he would be in the lineup every week because he does it all. He admitted to the GC crew that he’s been pressing too hard for win No. 2 after cashing at the Shriners in Vegas. This was his first weekend in three tries at API and his first rounds in the 60s at Bay Hill.
Kevin Na: His T6 this week is his third top 10 in his last five at Bay Hill. His other finishes were T14 and T30 so if he’s alive and healthy he needs to find a home when they return next year. In his last 20 rounds at Bay Hill, 14 rounds have been under par. The West Coastie loves Florida as well and in three Florida Swing starts he posted T9 at Doral, T10 at Innisbrook and T6 this week. That makes us for his ABYSMAL open to 2015.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat: The Barn Rat returns! He’ll need sponsor’s exemptions and top 10s to continue to try and win Special Temporary Membership. Recently engaged, the 2013 Asian Order of Merit winner is rounding back into form and is eligible for Valero next week if he chooses not to play in Morocco on the European Tour. He was T4 last time out at the True Thailand Classic in February.
Jason Kokrak: He closed here last year with 73 to finish fourth. He closed this year with 72 to finish T6. Both came a week after top 10s in Tampa both years as well so it’s safe to say Kokrak enjoys the final two stops on the Florida Swing. He’ll turn 30 in May so he should be hitting his stride. He Kevin Na’d it as well out west and even MC at Honda but the last two weeks have been excellent. Remember, Kokrak was having an excellent season last year before he was sidetracked after THE PLAYERS with hernia surgery.
Zach Johnson: His 71-71 saw him make the cut on the number and it looked like another week of disappointment for gamers. Johnson had never finished in the top 10 at Bay Hill since the redesign so hope was thin. Heck, he only had two rounds in the 60s since 2010 so needless to say his 68-66 finish was a bit of a surprise. He played his first 25 holes of the weekend nine-under to vault up the leaderboard and was eight-under on Sunday after an albatross on No. 16. He promptly bogeyed Nos. 17 and 18 to finish T9. He was T21 in fairways, T27 GIR and 25 in SGP so I’m not completely convinced he’s turned it around. His 66 ties his opening round at WMPO for the best of his season. No surprise that was his last top 10. Form is temporary; class is permanent. Timing out guys is next to impossible.
Louis Oosthuizen: Speaking of timing out guys, Oosti drives gamers insane as well. He was sixth at Doral and followed that with MC the following week at Innisbrook. Playing this week was almost a miracle in itself because that’s three in a row without a WD! He’s never seen this track but stuck all four rounds at 70 or better and finished T9. He had a solid week across the board and only made one bogey on Sunday. He’s the “defending champ” at St. Andrews don’t forget!
A quick recap of what happened to the Chalk from my preview column.
Henrik Stenson: Second, see above.
Adam Scott: Long putter? Short putter? Corn cob on the end of a tobacco stick? Mallet? Side saddle? The Aussie finished T35 even though he didn’t make a bogey on the weekend. WHAT? Yeah, two doubles and he was 64th of 69 players in SGP and T65 in putts per GIR. Last year his worst finish was T38 at THE PLAYERS. He backed that up by winning his next time out at Colonial. He was T35 this week after MC at Innisbrook. There’s no way he plays poorly three times in a row, right? RIGHT!?!?!?
Rory McIlroy: He was pleased after the round on Sunday that his game was improving on the areas he was working on and he has more improvement to do before Augusta. He hit 17 greens on Thursday and shot 70. He hit 12 on Friday and shot 66 because he started holing putts. He only made seven bogeys on the week but the putter never regained its Friday form on the weekend. His T11 is hardly criminal but gamers who rode the Stenson wave all week instead came out ahead in all formats. He’s right on schedule for Augusta.
J.B. Holmes: Missed the weekend by a shot as he bogeyed his final hole of the week. He had a solid week ball-striking but his putter was chilly. This was his first MC in nine tries at API.
Bubba Watson: WD due to the death of a family friend. The only interesting angle for gamers is whether or not he decides to pick up another start before defending his title at Augusta.
Kevin Na: T6, see above.
Hideki Matsuyama: I have to keep reminding myself he has no history on these courses. His 68 on Sunday redeemed an otherwise blah week as he jumped up 32 spots to T21. He shot one of the lowest rounds of the day on Sunday and that just keeps reinforcing how good he is and how he doesn’t mail it in. This is a recording.
Ian Poulter: His worst finish since the 2010 redesign is T21 and that’s what he found again this year. His 72 was par for the course and shouldn’t have surprised any gamers. In his five starts here he’s closed with 71-74-75-76-72. He’s hit the top 25 in five of six finishes so he’s been steady if not spectacular.
Sean O’Hair: He began Sunday T7 and finished T29 after five bogeys, a double and three birdies. He bounced back nicely after the playoff loss last week at Innisbrook but this is a course that he’s played well in the past so I’m not getting too carried away. He only made four bogeys before Sunday so he wasn’t “fluking” it around; his putter was chilly.
Shane Lowry: His run of T7 (Farmers), T21 (Pebble) and T17 (WGC-CC) came to an end this week as the Irishman couldn’t recover from an opening round 76 to find the weekend. His ball-striking was excellent again this week but couldn’t find enough love on the smooth surface.
Rickie Fowler: His closing round 69 moved him up 24 spots to T29. He didn’t have any of his four rounds over par but he had nothing better than 69. His putting numbers weren’t very good and he didn’t build on his T12 at Doral his last time out. What happened to the days of automatic top 10s?
Brooks Koepka: He dislocated a rib on Thursday and it finally became too painful to play with on Sunday during the round. It didn’t help that it affected his breathing as well so he was forced to WD. Keep your eyes on the Injury page at Rotoworld.com for any updates on his condition heading into the Masters.
Keegan Bradley: He birdied his first hole on Sunday to get to 10-under. He received a two stroke penalty on the next hole for swiping sand off the green. He made double. He followed that with triple. He dropped from T12 to T49. I tried at Honda where he always plays well. I tried at Bay Hill where he always plays well. I’m out of ideas so I’m out.
Jason Day: Another grinding finish, 68, moved him into the top 20 (T17). His putter was the culprit this week as well as he only made six bogeys but only carded 15 birdies and seven of those were on Sunday. Steady cash as usual.
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon
I’ll publish my weekly preview, Range Rover, around lunchtime, children permitting. I’ll focus on history, current form, course characteristics, winning qualities and those who I think will and will not.
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon Pt. II
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday late afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game, DFS plus the European Tour! Oh, and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it every Tuesday until the Presidents Cup.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Valero Texas Open plus answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.