Russell Henley is starting to show the form many expected of him. He’s in contention for a PGA Tour card after a slow start to his rookie Web.com Tour season.
Henley was 102nd on the tour’s money list in early July. He has had three top-10s in his past five starts – including a runner-up at the Midwest Classic – and now ranks 31st. The top 25 at season’s end earn PGA Tour cards. This week’s News Sentinel Open in Knoxville, Tenn., is the 19th of 27 events on the tour’s schedule.
Henley has earned $107,809 in 18 starts this season. More than 80 percent of those earnings have come in his past five starts. Last week’s finish alone was worth $48,400. Ten of Henley’s past 12 rounds have been in the 60s.
Henley was just the second amateur to win on the Web.com Tour when he claimed last year’s Stadion Classic and represented the United States at the 2011 Walker Cup. This has been a good year for rookie pros with University of Georgia ties. Harris English, who also won as an amateur on last year’s Web.com Tour, will start the FedEx Cup playoffs at 87th in the rankings. Hudson Swafford made it back-to-back Georgia winners at the Stadion Classic, which is held at the University of Georgia Golf Course, when he holed a bunker shot on the 72nd hole to win this year’s event. Swafford is 13th on the Web.com Tour money list.
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BLIND LUCK: Any player will concede it takes a little luck to win, but this is a bit much. Twice this season, players have sent shots over the 72nd green, only to make birdie after a ricochet back onto the green. Nick Flanagan did it first at the BMW Charity Pro-Am. His approach shot hit a camera behind the green and ended up 15 feet from the hole. He made the birdie putt, then won the title, his first since 2007, in a playoff.
“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky rather than good, obviously. You’ve got to take every break you can get out here,” Flanagan said.
Shawn Stefani picked up his first Web.com Tour title in similar fashion last week. His lob wedge flew over the flag, bounced off the mesh fencing at the base of the sky boxes and rolled back on the green, a mere 3 feet from the hole. Stefani finished two shots ahead of Russell Henley and Luke List.
“When you win, a lot of good things go your way,” he said. The victory moved Stefani from 54th to 12th on the Web.com Tour money list.
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BACK ON TOP: Luke List regained the top spot on the Web.com Tour money list with his runner-up finish at last week’s Midwest Classic. List has three second-place finishes to go with his victory at the South Georgia Classic. He has earned $309,196 in 17 events this season, which represents 55.6 percent of his career Web.com Tour earnings in 82 starts.
Casey Wittenberg ($292,128) and Ben Kohles ($262,875), the tour’s only two-time winners this season, are Nos. 2 and 3 on the money list, respectively. Kohles played the PGA Tour last week, finishing 70th at the Wyndham Championship in his home state of North Carolina.
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GREAT START: Luke Guthrie continued his solid play at last week’s Midwest Classic, finishing sixth to move to 15th on the Web.com Tour money list. He has earned $152,963 in just four starts. Guthrie, who turned pro after this year’s NCAA Championship, has finished no worse than 19th in seven starts on the PGA and Web.com tours. He has finished 2nd-3rd-10th-6th in his four career Web.com Tour starts. In two months as a pro, he has earned $437,635.
Guthrie started the Midwest Classic’s final round in 34th place, but his final-round 65 moved him into sixth.
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SHORT SHOTS: John Daly is in the field for this week’s News Sentinel Open. His bag sponsor, Pilot, is also the tournament’s presenting sponsor. Daly preceded a missed cut at the Wyndham Championship by finishing 18th at the PGA Championship and fifth at the Reno-Tahoe Open. … Web.com Tour events conducted during the FedEx Cup playoffs have only four Monday qualifying spots instead of the traditional 14. Jonathan Randolph, a former first-team All-American at Mississippi, shot 62 to grab one of those spots after winning on the NGA Tour the previous week. Hunter Hamrick also Monday qualified for this week’s event. He finished 46th in his pro debut at this year’s U.S. Open and 10th at the PGA Tour’s True South Classic.