Henrik Stenson rages after Matt Every retains Arnold Palmer Invitational

Henrik Stenson

Matt Every’s successful defence of the Arnold Palmer Invitational was immediately overshadowed by Henrik Stenson, who vented deep frustration at what he believed to be unnecessary influence from a PGA Tour rules official on the denouement of the event.

The Swede objected to the placing on the clock – basically being subject to constant time monitoring by a referee – of he and his playing partner, Morgan Hoffman, from the 15th hole on Sunday due to alleged slow play.

Stenson was to three-putt that hole and the next, a key factor in his subsequent losing of the tournament to Every by just a stroke. Stenson and Hoffman were in the final grouping, with Every up ahead.

“I am a bit disappointed with the rules official for pushing us up late in the round for no obvious reason,” Stenson said. “You have to back off every now and then for mobile phones and stuff like that. You are not playing the quickest when you are in the last couple of groups.

“I didn’t see the point of the officials influencing, potentially, the outcome of this tournament towards the end. You want to take your time but when someone is sitting there with a stopwatch, it affects you a little bit. It got to me and obviously I was rushing.”

It was suggested to Stenson that the underlying issue here was completion of play before live broadcasting ended at 6pm local time. Which, it has to be noted, did transpire. “I thought we were here to play golf. Not to finish at 6pm,” he added.

Despite a request, nobody from the Tour’s rules department offered any response. Before this discord broke out, Every had signed for a 66 to complete a recovery from three shots adrift at the start of day four to win. His victory arrived when four strokes back, 12 months ago. This is the only PGA Tour tournament the 31-year-old Every has won. This success owed plenty to a terrific birdie putt, converted from 17ft on the final green.

“You watch tournaments on TV where guys make putts like that to win and everybody goes nuts,” Every said. “So it is cool to close one out like that.”

Every will take his place at the Masters in little over a fortnight’s time. He is also, it has to be noted, one of the quickest players on Tour.

Rory McIlroy’s last competitive round before he seeks to make history at Augusta by winning what would be a third major in a row and the last of a full set was one of 70. There was the boost of a 72nd-hole birdie for the world No1 but he departed Orlando of a mind to work hard pre-Georgia.

“My wedge play needs quite a bit of work,” McIlroy admitted after tying for 11th. “I am not taking advantage of getting up close to the green.

“I am going to concentrate a lot from 120 yards in over the next couple of weeks. I will try to get that as sharp as I possibly can.”

Not that McIlroy seemed downbeat. It seems highly likely he will return to Bay Hill in a year’s time. “I had a fantastic week,” he added. “I had never played here before and I really liked the golf course.

“I got to spend some time with Arnold, which was a real treat. I got quite a lot out of this week, actually. It wasn’t the way I wanted to finish but it gives me what I need, heading into the next couple of weeks and preparing for Augusta.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ewan Murray at Bay Hill, for The Guardian on Monday 23rd March 2015 00.07 Europe/London

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