Paul Casey of England throws his tee on the 7th hole during the second round of the BMW Masters golf tournament at the Lake Malaren Golf Club in Shanghai, China Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. (AP Photo)
AP Photo
December 01, 2015

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) Paul Casey would love nothing better than to wear a uniform and play for the flag in 2016.

His motivation is Rio, not Hazeltine.

''Not that I know,'' Casey said Tuesday with a smile, ''but I think we have until July 11.''

He was talking about the cutoff for qualifying for the Olympics, and the 38-year-old from England has a good chance to qualify for the United Kingdom. Casey is No. 24 in the world ranking and currently behind Justin Rose (No. 5) and Danny Willett (No. 20). As steady as he has been playing, Casey is setting his target on the top 10. The UK can have as many as four players provided they are within the top 15 on July 11.

As for that other flag-waving event?

Casey disclosed just over a week ago that he was not going to join the European Tour, and thus will not be eligible for the Ryder Cup team. In his mind, this was not a decision based on the Ryder Cup. It was a decision for wife Pollyanna and their 15-month-old son Lex.

''I'm going to continue to focus on the family, which means I'm going to be playing here next year,'' said Casey, who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. ''Family to me is the most important thing.''

Asked if it was hard to turn down the Ryder Cup, he said it was ''not about that.''

''It was looking at the schedule and looking at how much time I can spend with my family,'' he said. ''I'm saying `yes' to family. My life has changed drastically for the better in the last 15 months from having Lex. It's magic. I wanted to be as good of a father as I can possibly be and spend as much time with Lex and Pollyanna.''

The European Tour last month significantly changed its membership requirements, though it wasn't a change that helped the top players. Instead of a minimum requirement of 13 events on the schedule, players only have to play five times, but that excludes the majors and World Golf Championships. So that would have come in handy a year ago for Casey when he was not eligible for the eight biggest events.

''Nothing is changed for me,'' he said. ''For me and others in the top 50, you still have to play the same events. It would have helped me when I was in the 80s. But it doesn't change a thing now. And nothing has changed for me. I'm still going to focus on my family.''

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LYLE AWARD: The PGA Tour only hands out its ''Courage Award'' when it feels it has a worthy recipient. Jarrod Lyle was a natural selection this year.

Lyle has overcome two battles with acute myeloid leukemia. He returned to the PGA Tour last year after nearly losing his life, and the Australian now is in the second year of a medical extension granted to him.

He was presented the award at the Greg Norman Gold Medal Dinner on the eve of the Australian PGA Championship.

''It has taken a lot of fighting for me to get back to the PGA Tour, but it has been well worth it,'' Lyle said. ''For me to get back after the things I have dealt with shows people in similar situations there is hope for them and if they stay positive and fight for every day then they can succeed in life. To be back playing with all the guys again and saying `thank you' was very important to me.''

The PGA Tour Courage Award is presented to a player who has overcome extraordinary adversity, such as personal tragedy or debilitating illness, to make significant contribution to golf. The last player to win the award was Erik Compton two years ago. Compton has gone through two heart transplants.

''Jarrod is a story of great perseverance and courage in the face of adversity,'' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. ''To battle and overcome leukemia twice is a statement unto itself as to his character. But he has also made a significant impression on all of us with his determination to reclaim his career as a professional golfer.''

The Courage Award includes a $25,000 donation to a charity chosen by the winner. Lyle has selected ''Challenge - Supporting Kids with Cancer,'' an Australian organization that delivers daily support to children and families living with cancer.

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TIGER ON KOBE: Tiger Woods has deep appreciation for Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers star who is retiring after this season. And when it comes to injuries and a tough conclusion to a Hall of Fame career, Woods can relate.

''He was a flyer,'' Woods said Tuesday. ''You only have so many jumps in the body, and only so many landings. The last three years he's gone through some pretty tough injuries. But other than that, I mean, this guy was as durable as durable gets.''

Woods said 20 years in the NBA must feel like more than 20 years compared with other sports (such as golf).

''You add up all those games, it takes a toll on the body and eventually it just doesn't heal anymore,'' Woods said. ''And that sport is so fast, so athletic and so quick, it's just tough. It's been tough to watch him go through the season he's had and understandably so. He's been there for 20 years.''

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KHANG TURNS PRO: Megan Khang has decided to skip college and turn pro. Her first job is to get an LPGA Tour card.

The 17-year-old from Massachusetts finished in the top three at the first two stages of Q-school. She was driving to an event last week in Florida with her father when she made a ''spur of the moment'' decision to turn pro.

''Making the decision helps me because I no longer have to decide if I'm going to stay an amateur,'' Khang said. ''It is good to know beforehand.''

Final stage starts Wednesday at LPGA International at the tour's headquarters. The top 20 from a 157-player field get full cards for the 2016 season.

Khang already has qualified three times for the U.S. Women's Open and tied for 35th this year to be low amateur. She is No. 8 in the women's amateur rankings, won the Connecticut State Open for the third time and went 3-0 in the Junior Solheim Cup.

''The LPGA is where the best players in the world play and I want to be there,'' Khang said. ''But I need to get past this tournament first to play on the big time.''

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DIVOTS: Jason Day will have had a three-month break when he shows up at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. He withdrew from the Hero World Challenge this week, and on Tuesday he withdrew from the Franklin Templeton Shootout. Day and Cameron Tringale were defending champions. Day has been replaced by Chris Kirk. The PGA champion said he wanted to spend time with his newborn daughter, Lucy. ... Seven players in the final stage of LPGA Tour qualifying currently are in the top 60 in the Olympic rankings and would be eligible to compete in Rio - Nicole Broch Larsen (Denmark), Stephanie Meadow (Ireland), Dewi Claire Schreefel (Netherlands), Giulia Sergas (Italy), Laetitia Beck (Israel), Paz Echeverria (Chile) and Lisa McCloskey (Colombia).

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STAT OF THE WEEK: Matt Jones has a tough act to follow. The last two winners of the Australian Open, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, won two majors the following year.

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FINAL WORD: ''I have a lot less hair.'' - Tiger Woods of if he seems like a different person after 20 years on the PGA Tour.

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