Australia’s Adam Scott has blown his chance to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational and claim golf’s world No.1 ranking.
World No.2 Scott went into the final round at Bay Hill with a three-shot lead and was expected to take the top ranking from Tiger Woods with a victory.
But he shot a four-over-par 76 and finished third, two shots behind winner Matt Every.
Every had a closing 70 and claimed his first US PGA Tour title by one shot from fellow American Keegan Bradley (72). Scott had five bogeys in his round with just a single birdie.
It’s a confidence blow ahead of Scott’s Masters title defence at Augusta National starting on March 10.
Scott, playing at Bay Hill for the first time since missing the cut in 2009, went into the weekend with a seven-shot lead after equalling the course record with a 62 on the first day and following with a 68 on Friday.
He failed to make a birdie in the last 14 holes as Every came from four shots back at the start of the final day to win and claim a start at the Masters.
Bradley had a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to force a playoff but missed to left of the hole.
Every, who grew up in the area and used to attend the tournament as a kid, broke through in his 93rd US tour start.
“It’s hard. It’s tough,” Every said as he wiped away tears. “You never know if it’s going to happen. It’s nice to get it done. It’s really cool. I’ve been really close. I’ve had a ton of looks. I still can’t believe I won.”
Every led Scott by three strokes with three holes to play but found a cart path to the right off the 16th tee and hit a tree with his second shot on the way to a bogey.
As quickly as the door opened, Scott missed a 19-foot eagle putt and pulled a four-foot comeback birdie putt left of the cup at the par-5 16th while Every rescued par from a bunker at the par-3 17th, staying two ahead of Scott.
Scott missed a seven-foot par putt at 17 and even though Every closed with a bogey by missing a five-foot par putt, Scott’s par was not enough.
It was a long, hard day for Scott who found bunkers with his first two shots and missed a five-foot par putt at the first, dropping his lead to two shots.
Scott found water left off the third tee on his way to another bogey that trimmed his edge to one shot over Every.
Scott answered with a birdie of his own at the fourth to reach 14-under and lead by two, but he found a bunker off the tee at the par-3 eighth and took a bogey, slicing his lead back to one.
When Every sank a 20-foot birdie putt at the 10th and added an eight-foot birdie at the par-5 12th to reach 14-under he was one ahead.
Scott, dumped from the top of the leaderboard for the first time since Thursday morning, fell two adrift when Every followed with a 13-foot birdie putt at 13 to reach 15-under.
When Scott took a bogey at the par-3 14th, missing a seven-foot par putt, Every’s advantage grew to three shots.