(Reuters) - An emotional Matt Every clinched his first PGA Tour victory in dramatic fashion when he surged past a faltering Adam Scott to win the $6.2 million Arnold Palmer Invitational by one stroke in Florida on Sunday.
“It’s tough man. You just never know if it’s going to happen,” a teary-eyed Every told NBC after edging fellow American Keegan Bradley at Bay Hill in Orlando.
Australian Scott, the Masters champion, finished third.
Every, who started the final round four strokes behind Scott, charged to the front with four birdies in a sizzling five-hole stretch around the turn.
The 30-year-old built a three-shot lead, before bogeying the 16th and 18th holes, missing a five-footer at the last that opened the door for Bradley.
Bradley, however, missed a 30-foot birdie putt that would have forced a playoff, while Scott finished two shots behind after a 76. Nobody in the top 25 shot a worse final round.
“You get there so many times and it’s nice to get it done,” said Every, who had a 70 to finish at 13-under-par 275.
“That (missed at the last) was a bummer. Would have been to celebrate there, but I’ll take it.”
Every grew up in nearby Daytona Beach and Bay Hill was the first place he ever watched a PGA Tour event.
The PGA Tour suspended him for three months during his rookie season in 2010 for conduct unbecoming a professional after he and two others were arrested on misdemeanor charges of marijuana possession in Iowa.
The charges were later dropped but the PGA Tour suspension, which was announced by Every’s management company, remained.
”I don’t do drugs,“ Every told reporters at a news conference at the Sony Open in Honolulu in 2012. ”It was a crappy deal, man. Wrong place, wrong time, perfect storm, and you know, I got three months out of it. It’s over with. I‘m not mad at the tour. They did what they had to do. I totally understand it. But it’s over with. ...
“If one of my friends likes to smoke marijuana every now and then, I‘m not going to say, well, you can’t be my friend anymore,” he added. “I don’t do it, but I don’t frown upon it.”
He also said he disagreed with how the PGA Tour handled his situation.
“If they would have thrown a month at me instead of three, that would have been nice,” Every said.
The PGA Tour did not comment.
Every lost his PGA Tour card that season and was relegated to the secondary tour for a year before earning his way back to the big stage.
Now he is off to the Masters, and $1.116 million richer after winning in his 93rd start on tour.
But it might never have been if not for a piece of luck at the par-four ninth on Sunday, where his drive went dangerously left and nearly out-of-bounds.
Instead, the ball narrowly stayed in-bounds and to the right of the cart path, bouncing forward almost 100 yards, from where he punched his second shot to 15 feet and made birdie to close within one shot at the turn.
Scott, meanwhile, was left to rue his inability to close the deal in his final start before defending his Masters title April 10-13.
The world number two, who had a chance to take over as world number one from Tiger Woods, led by eight strokes after 35 holes, but played the final 37 holes in four over.
His score got higher each day, as he shot 62 68 71 76.
His putter deserved him on Sunday, no more conspicuously than at the par-five 16th, where he had a chance to make an eagle and tie Every, only to three-putt from 20 feet.
Reporting By Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Gene Cherry