Matt Every: Breaking The Shackles of the “Life is Hard” Conversation

Matt Every won his first PGA Tour event on his 93rd attempt at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida. He beat Keegan Bradley by one, a stumbling Adam Scott by another, long bomber Jason Kokrak by another and a reconstituted Henrik Stenson by yet another.

But it didn’t come easy. Hard charging Keegan Bradley was not going to go down lightly with birdies on 16 and 17 while Every was making bogey on 16 and 18. But it was enough as inevitability sometimes catches up to you.

I can’t believe I won.  I just — I really can’t.

Being close to winning out here, I mean it can be kind of discouraging because if you don’t win you just wonder if it’s ever going to happen. 

He won it on the course, but what set it up was a conversation early in the week with Brandt Snedeker’s tactical statistician, Mark Horton. Snedeker has blossomed into a great player because Horton has helped him to see what his strengths are generally and then specifically on any given course and then to play to them.

I’m not working with him. I just know him because he’s out here all the time.  He’s a good dude.

And this is a funny story, so I sat down with him earlier in the week, and he said, you’ve been playing good this year.  Yeah, it’s been pretty good.  He goes, let me tell you something, if I was a betting man, every time you get in contention I would bet against you.  And I was like, what?  It kind of took me by surprise a little bit.

Then he gave me a couple of tips and it was kind of nice to hear something like that, because a lot of people out here just pump your tires.  And depending on who it’s coming from, it doesn’t even mean anything.

But when he said that it kind of — it hit me pretty good.  And I was like, part of me was, like, screw him, I’ll show him.  And part of me was like, he’s right, you know?  And one of the reasons he said was I am way too aggressive on Sundays.  And that was like — that was the main thing.

So yesterday when I was in here saying I wanted to be a little more conservative, and I was, I was a lot more conservative today than I normally am.  I just took what it gave me and it worked out.

It’s kind of weird how things like that work out.  He said that at the start of the week and then I ended up winning.  But I’m happy he said that to me because I needed it.

Part of that final-day aggressiveness comes from focusing too much on the “life is hard” conversation, that conversation that routinely overwhelms our best sense of ourselves:

I don’t know.  It’s just so hard to get out here, first of all.  It’s not like if you’re the best in college in any other sport, you sign this big contract and then right to the pros.  Here it’s like, big deal.  Nobody cares.  Start over.

And there’s so many good players now.  It’s so hard to get out here.  So once you’re out here and you get — like I said before, you’re so used to losing that the thought’s in the back of your mind, but sometimes you just forget about it.

“Sometimes you just forget about it.” Or stated another way, sometimes you become so engrossed in the present, you only operate with the facts that are right in front of you and you don’t have the drag of what you generally think about your world.

He lost his Tour card at the end of 2010 and had to go back down to the Tour to get it back. And once again, he had to accomplish that with the “life is hard” conversation in full bloom:

It’s tough to go — you kind of see it out here, too — I can’t provide examples right now.  But once you go from the Tour and back to the Tour, it’s not easy to go back up to the Tour.  I mean just mentally you’re like, you know, I’m playing for a tenth of what I was playing for the year before.

It’s not easy.  And I knew I just had to dig down and get it back.  That’s my only way to get it back was through  I was happy I got it.  And it was a huge accomplishment to get back out here.

The good ones are able to overcome the “life is hard” conversation eventually because they believe in their talent enough to wait the process out. They just make it a little harder on themselves:

I knew my good stuff was good.  I would be lying — I won’t lie to myself.  I know when I play well that I am very good.  I’m not going to say top‑5, but I’m very good.  And it’s just — it’s a putt here or there.  It’s just little things, man, getting up and down here or there, a bounce here or there that could be the difference in winning or not winning; winning and finishing 15th, you know.  Because say you’ve got a terrible break, it costs you two shots and your attitude is bad and there it goes.

But it’s very nice to win.  And I mean it’s just cool that I can say that I won on the PGA Tour.  But I always felt like my game was plenty good enough to win out here.

And, recalling Patrick Reed’s winning comments that he had come to think of himself as a top-5 player, believing in your greatness is a concept Every is totally on board with:

What’s wrong in believing in yourself?  There’s so many sensitive people that just get all torn up on the dumbest stuff.  And it’s okay to believe in yourself.

What Patrick Reed said [at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral], I thought that was great.  The only part that I kind of was like — was when he listed his resume.  But other than that, you know…(laughter).

No, I’m serious.  That’s great he thinks he’s a top‑5 player, he probably is right now.  What’s wrong with thinking good things about yourself?

Not a thing. Particularly when you are finally able to break the shackles of the “life is hard” conversation.

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