Every pips Stenson at Bay Hill

The 31-year-old rolled in a nerveless 15-foot putt on the final green to cap a superb seven-birdie 66 which proved enough to clinch a one-shot victory over 54-hole leader Henrik Stenson after the Swede faltered down the stretch.

Stenson had covered the final four holes in four under par for two consecutive days, but he bogeyed the 15th after three-putting and could not better par at the next two before his 20-foot putt to force a play-off at the 18th slid past the cup on the high side.

Halfway leader Morgan Hoffmann surged into contention with five birdies over the first eight holes before his challenge faded after the turn, while Australian Matt Jones birdied three of the last four to finish two behind the champion.

World No 1 Rory McIlroy gave himself an outside chance of victory when he picked up early birdies at the fourth and sixth, but he bogeyed nine and 12 before hauling himself into a tie for 11th place on 11 under with further birdies at 16 and 18 which salvaged a 70.

Stenson got off to a confident start as he and playing partner Hoffmann traded birdies at the first, and the Swede responded to Hoffmann’s three at the third with his second birdie of the round at the next.

But a two-shot swing at the fifth handed Hoffmann a share of the lead, and the American then went back to the top of the leaderboard with a birdie at the sixth.

Hoffmann then went two clear on 19 under when he converted an excellent approach at the eighth, while Every got to within three of the lead when he recovered from an opening bogey with four birdies in six holes from the third.

Every then drained a 25-footer for birdie at the 10th before setting up another birdie with a stunning second to four feet at 11, while Hoffmann dropped his first shot of the day at the ninth before Stenson suddenly reclaimed the outright lead with birdies at 11 and 12.

Hoffmann’s challenge unravelled after two wayward tee shots cost him bogeys at the 12th and 13th, although he pulled one back at the long 16th to get back to within one of Stenson and Every.

The defending champion then piled the pressure on the final pairing after he followed a perfect drive up the 18th fairway with a solid approach to the rear of the green, and his slippery, downhill birdie putt caught enough of the hole to drop in the left side.

The pressure told on Hoffmann as he tugged his drive out of bounds and he would go on to close with an ugly six for a 71 that promised so much more, while Stenson’s par capped a frustrating two-under 70.

Jones finished the tournament in outright third after his grandstand finish, pitching in for birdie at 15 before rolling in excellent putts at the next two holes as he returned a 68 to close on 17 under.

Ben Martin recovered from a three-bogey front nine with four birdies after the turn to post a 71 and complete the top five, and his fellow Americans Kevin Na and Jason Kokrak and shared sixth on 13 under with Thai ace Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

Meanwhile, former Masters champion Zach Johnson vaulted up the leaderboard early in the day and he also emulated Daniel Berger’s albatross on Saturday – the first in the event’s history.

Johnson holed his 207-yard second with a perfect five-iron at the long 16th, although he then bogeyed the final two holes to settle for a 66 and a tie for ninth on 12 under.

McIlroy was a further stroke adrift in his final start before the Masters, while Ernie Els enjoyed his best finish of the season as a five-birdie 68 moved him 16 places up the leaderboard.

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