HONOLULU – Matt Every, finally making news for his golf, made the game look and sound easy Friday at the Sony Open.
Every closed with three straight birdies for a 6-under 64, giving him a two-shot lead over David Hearn, who kept the Canadian presence on the leaderboard with his second straight 66.
Brendon De Jonge shot 62 and Pat Perez was solid again with a 67 to finish three shots behind, while Steve Stricker made double bogey from a bad lie in a bunker that stalled his momentum. He had to settle for a 69 and was five shots back in his bid to become the first player since Ernie Els in 2003 to sweep the Hawaii events.
Every, however, dominated the day on and off the golf course.
He made news in the summer of 2010 when he was arrested and jailed on a misdemeanor drug possession charge after agents were called to a casino hotel because of a strong odor of marijuana coming from the room he was in.
Every confirmed he was suspended for three months, returning in time for the last event, leaving him little hope of keeping his card.
The 28-year-old Floridian said he has put it behind him. He is married, and his wife is expecting their first baby in June. But it didn’t keep him from talking about how the case was handled, how he is perceived and the company he keeps.
“I don’t do drugs. It was a crappy deal, man,” Every said. “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.”
Every said he is not a “party animal.”
“I still hang out with the same people,” he said. “I have great friends, man. 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.’ Honestly, man, I know more people who smoke marijuana than who don’t smoke marijuana. I know that’s probably not the politically correct thing to say, but it’s the truth.”
Asked about the outcome of the charge, Every said he had to “stay out of trouble” for a year. One of his agents at Goal Marketing, Kevin Canning, declined comment when asked how the case was disposed.
As for golf, Every made it sound as though it was just another day on manicured fairways.
“Just played good,” said Every, who was at 10-under 130. “I just didn’t make many mistakes and made some good putts, hit some good irons, just kind of normal stuff.”
His normal stuff was enough to put him atop the leaderboard through 36 holes for the first time on the PGA Tour, not bad for a guy who took four years to get to the PGA Tour, and is starting his second full season.
Every said he is behind where he should be, attributing that to a troublesome rookie season in 2010. He broke his finger in April, keeping him out for six weeks, then ran into trouble with the marijuana charge at the John Deere Classic. He returned to play seven more tournaments before he was suspended, and wound up 160th on the money list.
“I kind of feel like a rookie out here,” Every said. “My rookie year … I almost kept my status and played half the tournaments that everybody else played. I feel like it was a pretty good year for me. I just didn’t get to play much.”
After his rookie season, he didn’t get through Q-school and spent another year on the Nationwide Tour, where he finished 18th on the money list to get one of the 25 spots back on the PGA Tour.
“It’s easy to get lulled to sleep out there because the towns you go to and it’s just so hot,” Every said. “Every week, you’ve got to shoot 6 under every round. You can get depressed out there pretty fast. So now I am hungry, but when I was out there, I was just really fighting to stay interested, you know?”
Graham Delaet, the first-round leader at 63, played in the afternoon had consecutive double bogeys to fall back. By then, it was another Canadian who had asserted himself. Hearn also started poorly with two early birdies, then finished off the front nine by playing his last five holes in 5-under par. A birdie on his final hole put him at 8-under 132.
De Jonge started his season by switching putters and opened with a 71. He went back to his old one and shot 62.
“I don’t know why I switched,” he said. “It was a mistake, obviously.”
Stricker was tied for the lead when he birdied the 18th hole at the turn. On the opening hole, among the toughest on the course, he got through the hard part with a drive down the middle of the fairway. His 3-iron into the increasingly strong wind came up a yard short and plugged into a bunker, and he knocked that over the green for a double bogey.
“From that point, I struggled to get any momentum going,” he said. “But I’m OK. I don’t think I’ll be more than five behind.”