Florida, March 6: Matt Every carded a blemish-free 65 to lead by one shot from fellow former champion Rory McIlroy after the opening round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
American Every overcame high winds as one of the late starters to record seven birdies on a Bay Hill course he knows well, having triumphed at the tournament in 2014 before defending his title the following year.
His performance was even more impressive considering he missed the cut at the Honda Classic a week ago after an 85 on the Friday.
The 36-year-old edged clear at the top of the leaderboard with a three at his penultimate hole after McIlroy - winner in 2018 - had overcome a sluggish start to set the clubhouse target.
Starting on the back nine, world number one McIlroy found water as he bogeyed his second hole but managed to still be under par at the turn thanks to a pair of birdies.
McIlroy then produced some blistering golf on his way back in, including an eagle at the fourth where he overcame finding a fairway bunker off the tee with a stunning shot out of the sand.
"I made a couple of unforced errors starting off. I hit it in the water at 11 and actually made a good bogey in the end, and then missed a little one on 12," McIlroy told Sky Sports.
"I think with the start, then turning in under par with the birdie at 16 and 18, I had a bit of a pep in my step going to the first tee. I played some great golf after that.
"I got a bit of a momentum and kept it going until the end."
Talor Gooch and Scottie Scheffler sat tied on five under, a shot ahead of a six-man group that included Graeme McDowell, who was victorious at the Saudi International last month.
Patrick Reed posted a two-under 70 and Brooks Koepka signed for an even-par 72, while defending champion Francesco Molinari pulled out before starting his round due to a back injury.