ORLANDO, Fla. — Look who’s leading the Arnold Palmer Invitational after Thursday’s opening round.
Matt Every, with a 7-under 65, seized a one-shot lead over World No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who had gone out with the morning wave.
Every is known for three things on the PGA Tour: Speaking his mind, winning at Bay Hill and weed.
The free-spirited, outspoken 36-year-old native of nearby Daytona Beach, has two career PGA Tour wins and both came in the Arnold Palmer Invitational (in 2014 and 2015). Of his $10.2 million in career earnings, $2.4 million of that has come at this tournament.
Every also has twice been suspended by the Tour for cannabis, which he said he uses to help with anxiety.
Every, who was suspended last fall for 12 weeks for testing positive and returned to play in January, was arrested for possession of marijuana in 2010 and suspended by the Tour as a result of that as well.
He said he has applied to the Tour for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) and has been denied.
“It’s not FDA approved,’’ Every said Thursday when asked why he’s been denied. “There’s a lot of reasons, I’m sure. It bothers me that it’s even an issue out here at all. I think it doesn’t do anybody any favors that it’s even on the list for a prohibited substance.
“You could fail for heroin and marijuana and the penalty is the same. If anyone wants to make the argument that that is performance enhancing, they have never done it before. I promise it’s not. Anxiety is a real thing and … I know I treat it the healthiest way possible for my body.
“But WADA [World Anti-doping Agency] doesn’t think so and the Tour goes by what WADA says. It’s really silly, to be honest.’’
What’s also silly is the fact the last time Every teed it up in a tournament was last Friday in the Honda Classic second round, he shot 20 shots more than he did Thursday. That day he posted an 85 that was lowlighted by the 11 he took on the par-3 fifth hole, where he hit four balls into the water.
Listening to him recount that hole Thursday was hilarious.
“OK, I’ll tell you what happened: It was a back-left pin, I was already going to miss the cut, the wind was off the right [and] I had been having problems all week holding the wind,’’ he said. “I’m not going to learn anything by skanking one out to the right and bailing out. I know I can do that. So, I wasn’t leaving that tee until I hit the shot I wanted and I flushed every one of them, like, exactly in the same spot in the water. And then finally I hit one that held it.
“I hit four 5-irons [into the water] and then one 4-iron [onto the green].’’
Asked why it took four 5-irons into the water to switch to a 4-iron, he said, “I think I had like two balls left and I just didn’t want to have to deal with that. I was ready to get out of there.’’
Obviously, the 85 last week had no effect on his game Thursday, when he played bogey-free despite blustery conditions.
“My short-term memory isn’t very good,’’ he said with a smile. “So, that is a strength sometimes.’’