Matt Every birdies 18 to repeat as Bay Hill champion
Matt Every sank a tension-packed 17-foot birdie putt on the final hole Sunday to defend his title at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, defeating Sweden`s Henrik Stenson by one stroke.
The 31-year-old American, who grew up nearby and attended the $6.3 million US PGA event as a youth, matched 14-time major champion Tiger Woods and fellow American Loren Roberts as only the third player to win back-to-back Bay Hill titles, a feat Woods accomplished five times.
"I was driving it really good this week and my irons were spot on," Every said. "The accuracy was great. I kind of had a feeling. I was shaking over some of those putts late but that one at 18 was straight downhill."
Every, who fired a six-under par final round 66 to finish on 19-under 269, also joined Woods and the late Payne Stewart as the only players to win the crown with a 72nd-hole birdie.
"I know how to win," Every said.
Third-ranked Stenson, on solid form after sharing fourth the past two weeks at Doral and Copperhead, was the US tour`s ninth 54-hole leader in a row to lose. Ahead by two when the day began, he missed a 21-foot birdie putt on 18 to force a playoff and finished on 270 after a closing 70.
World number one Rory McIlroy, who can win his third major in a row and complete a career grand slam by winning next month`s Masters, had four birdies and two bogeys in firing a 70 to finish on 277 for a share of 11th.
"I got quite a lot out of this week," McIlroy said. "It gave me what I needed going into the next couple of weeks before the Masters. I definitely feel like I`ve taken some strides in the right direction. There are still some things I need to tidy up and work on before the Masters. The things I was working on this week, I feel like I`ve made progress."
Australian Matt Jones, who will defend his first US PGA title in two weeks at the Houston Open, birdied three of the last four holes to shoot 68 and take third on 271, two strokes ahead of American Morgan Hoffmann with American Ben Martin fifth on 274.
Thailand`s Kiradech Aphibarnrat closed with a 69 to share sixth on 275 with Americans Kevin Na and Jason Kokrak.American Zach Johnson fired the second albatross in as many days at Bay Hill, sinking a 5-iron fairway shot from 207 yards at the par-5 16th on his way to a 66 and a share of ninth on 276.
A back-nine shootout developed between Stenson, Hoffmann and Every. Hoffmann birdied five of the first eight holes, but a bogey at the ninth left him only one stroke ahead of Stenson and Every at the turn.
Every, who opened with a bogey, made a run of six birdies in nine holes that ended with a four-footer at 11 to give him a share of the lead.
Stenson answered with a six-foot birdie at 11 and a four-foot birdie putt at the par-5 12th to grab the lead by one over Every at 19-under, with Hoffmann taking bogeys at 12 and 13 to stumble three adrift.
Stenson missed a five-foot par putt at 15 for a bogey that dropped him level with Every and left a 10-foot birdie putt short at the par-5 16th.
That opened the door for Every, who answered with his closing birdie.
Hoffmann`s longshot hopes ended when his tee shot went out of bounds left and Stenson`s final miss handed Every the victory.