Bonus in sight for reaching No. 1 among THE 25

Chris Condon/PGA TOUR
Russell Henley moved up 85 spots to No. 3 on the money list in the past few months.
October 24, 2012
Bill Nichols, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

MCKINNEY, Texas -- In August, Russell Henley was on the outside looking in. He ranked 88th in earnings and needed a strong finish to be among the top 60 qualifying for the Tour Championship.


But when Henley arrived at TPC Craig Ranch this week, he saw only two people in front of him.

He enters the season-ending event with $365,366 in earnings, trailing No. 1 Casey Wittenberg by $42,087.

Henley illustrates one extreme in the Tour quest. After improving 85 spots, he is chasing No. 1.

"Why couldn't I?" he said after Wednesday's Pro-Am. "I'm a lot away but it's possible. The last couple weeks I've gone from 35th to 3. It can happen."

This week is all about movement. Almost everyone has a targeted number needed to attain certain status.

After 26 tournaments, it has come to this:

The top 60 players on the money list competing for 25 spots on the PGA TOUR in 2013.

But there are competitions within the competition. No. 1 carries the perk of fully exempt status and the luxury of setting his own schedule -- not to mention an exemption into THE PLAYERS Championship in 2013.

For the next 24, a higher finish means easier access into tournaments.

Three players made 11th hour entrances. B.J. Staten went from 69 to 31; Kevin Foley jumped from 66 to 54; and Ben Martin took the elevator from the 94th floor to reach the final spot, 60.

He enters this week hoping for a similar move into the top 25.

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"Being in top 60 is a safety net,'' Martin said. "At worst, I have full status (on the Tour). For me to get up in the top 25, I need to win or finish second. It is a numbers game.''

Henley, who struggled during the first first half of his rookie season, played the numbers as well as anyone.

The 23-year-old from the University of Georgia got rolling with a T7 at the Cox Classic and a tie for second at the Midwest Classic. That got him to 31, which was well within striking distance of his goal.

Over the last three weeks, he posted two playoff wins and a third.

"The higher your number, the more tournaments you're guaranteed to get in to,'' Henley said. "That's what I'm trying to do, just improve my number the best I can. I've already come a long way so no matter what happens this week I'm still going to pat myself on the back.''

The biggest moves will probably be among the 20-something players.

Camilo Benedetti of Colombia enters Thursday's first round on the bubble, No. 25. He leads Doug LaBelle by $287 after finishing tied for 10th last week. Last year Billy Hurley III, who was 25th, needed a tie for 18th to keep his spot.

"I've never been on the PGA TOUR and that's what I've been playing for the last several years,'' Benedetti said. "At the same time, the Tour is not a bad place to play. I'm not really thinking of either one, per se, just trying to play some good golf and hopefully I can make it to the big tour.''