ORLANDO, Fla. – Coming off his best season as a professional, Matt Every had an epiphany: approaching age 31, Father Time was beginning to work against him.
What resulted was a re-dedication to the game, a coaching change and a new swing. While the results haven’t followed yet this season, Every has remained steadfast in his belief that a return to form was near.
Through 36 holes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he appears to have found it.
Defending a title on the PGA Tour for the first time, Every has opened with rounds of 68 and 66 at Bay Hill. At 10 under, he trails Morgan Hoffmann by three shots heading into the weekend.
“I’m really excited to play golf because I know I have good stuff coming really, really soon,” Every said. “It’s like probably how Rory (McIlroy) feels every week.”
The confidence could seem surprising if you looked at his record this season: only one top-40 finish in nine starts, that coming when he finished T-27 at the limited-field Hyundai Tournament of Champions. But Every’s dedication has hardly wavered since his self-assessment that led to changes on multiple fronts.
“Around September of last year I was like, ‘All right. I’m getting ready to turn 31, I need to get my ass in gear, start getting my body in shape and start really grinding on things,’” he said. “I know it’s trending in a different way, but for a while everyone said your prime is your mid- to late-30s on the Tour.”
Every began a stricter workout regimen, and he called a coach he had been looking to work with for years: Sean Foley. Foley had previously told Every that he simply didn’t have room to add another player to his stable, but he happened to have just parted ways with Tiger Woods.
“It just kind of worked out this year where he had an opening,” Every said.
Foley has instilled a long-term perspective in Every since they began working together in October, reinforcing the Buddhist concept of a lotus flower growing out of the mud.
“The struggle is the path,” Foley said. “I’ve tried to keep Matt in structure and say, ‘We’re doing this, I don’t care what the results are. We’ll get through it.’
“He’s on the bridge right now, between where he started and where he wants to finish, and he’s at the part of the bridge where he can’t see either end.”
Every has enjoyed returning as champion to an event he attended as a kid: seeing his face on tickets, seeing his name on the list of past champions on the trophy and across the tournament grounds.
“Tiger, Tiger, Tiger, Tiger, Matt,” he joked.
The placid demeanor belies a record without a top-10 finish in nearly nine months. The inner confidence – the belief that led to his breakthrough victory here a year ago – is alive and well, and could fuel another big result this time around.
“I’ve known for a while that I’m on the right path,” he said. “I think it’s easier to enjoy the struggle when you know there’s going to be good things at the end of it if you just keep going.”