Matt Every’s only two PGA Tour victories came in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and incredibly he is atop the leaderboard again after the first round this time.
Every, who has missed the cut in three of his last four starts, posted a bogey-free, 7-under-par 65 to take a one-stroke lead over top-ranked Rory McIlroy in hot and windy conditions at Bay Hill Resort and Lodge www.bayhill.com in Orlando, Fla.
“I wish I knew,” Every said when asked to explain his success at Bay Hill, where he won in 2014 and 2015. “Sometimes I’m really good and sometimes I’m really bad. It’s a weird game. It was super windy today and I just didn’t want to go out and shoot myself out of it right away. There’s so much trouble out there, especially with the wind.
“Sometimes (the putts) just go in, even when you are only trying to get them close. It was just one of those days. Just because my score was better doesn’t mean I’m better than Rory. I hit it good and a lot of things went right for me. It was just a good day for me.”
The 36-year-old Every, who shot 85 in round two last week while missing the cut in the Honda Classic, finished on the front nine, where he made birdie putts of 36 feet on the first hole, 47 feet on the second and 31 feet to take the lead on the eighth.
McIlroy’s 68 was his sixth consecutive opening round of 68 or better and was highlighted by a 24-foot eagle putt at No. 4 while closing with a 5-under 31 on the front nine. However, he said an eight-footer for bogey at No. 11 and a 10-footer for birdie at No. 10 where his biggest putts of the day.
“To hole that putt for bogey … making 5 instead of 6 there is a big deal,” said McIlroy, who has finished no worse than sixth in his last six worldwide starts. One over through six, there’s still 66 holes left in this golf tournament
“And to turn that nine around and make the turn in 1-under, I felt pretty good about myself going to the front nine. Sort of had a bit of good pep in my step going into the first tee, and then I played some great golf after that.”
Rookie Scottie Scheffler, who won twice on 2019 Korn Ferry Tour and has three top-five finishes on the PGA Tour this season, fired a bogey-free 67 and is tied for third with Talor Gooch, who sank a 26-foot eagle putt on No. 16.
Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland holed a 23-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to shoot 68 and is in a tie for fifth with Tyrrell Hatton of England, Christiaan Bezuidenhout of South Africa, Sam Burns, Brendon Todd and Keith Mitchell.
Ninth-ranked Patrick Reed made his only bogey on the last hole to post a 70 and is in a tie for 19th includes Sungjae Im of South Korea, who won the Honda Classic last week, while third-ranked Brooks Koepka is tied for 45th at 72.
Tenth-ranked Tommy Fleetwood struggled to a 76 and is tied for 107th, while seventh-ranked Adam Scott of Australia came in at 77 and is in a tie for 109th that includes Phil Mickelson, who won this tournament way back in 1997.
Defending champion Francesco Molinari withdrew because of a back injury and J.B. Holmes dropped out due to an elbow injury.
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