Casey unmoved by European Tour changes


NASSAU, Bahamas – Paul Casey would rather make his statements with his golf clubs, like he did with a third-round 63 on Saturday when he bested the Albany course record by two strokes and moved within two shots of front-runner Bubba Watson at the Hero World Challenge.

When it comes to the Englishman’s complicated relationship with the European Tour, however, he has chosen to be slightly more outspoken.

For the second consecutive year, Casey has chosen to forego European Tour membership, a move that will keep him from playing next year’s Ryder Cup.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with the Ryder Cup,” he said. “That’s been the frustrating part, really. That reaction.”

The move to remain focused on the United States, where he lives with his wife and 1-year-old son, Lex, surprised some following the European Tour’s recent move to restructure its membership requirements, dropping the minimum number of starts from 13 (including the World Golf Championships and majors) to five (excluding the World Golf Championship and majors).

The restructuring was designed to give players who had fallen outside of the top 50 - like Casey, who began the year 75th in the Official World Golf Ranking - and weren’t qualified for the WGCs and majors a chance to maintain status on both tours.

“That number hasn’t changed, it’s still five [regular European Tour events],” Casey said. “There was a quote that said [European Tour chief executive officer Keith] Pelley had done everything he can to make it as easy for me to play the European Tour. The number is still the same, Keith Pelley. The number is still five.”

Casey points out he will continue to play the World Golf Championships and major championships he’s qualified for whether they count toward European membership or not, adding that the schedule in 2016 will be even more complicated by golf’s inclusion into the Olympics, which is a top priority for the 38-year-old.

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He specifically mentioned the difficult decision some players will have next year when the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be held opposite the French Open, which will count as two starts and be worth double Ryder Cup points on the European Tour.

“I love Bridgestone. I love Akron [Ohio]. I’m going to play Bridgestone,” Casey said. “It hasn’t gotten any easier.”

The reaction to Casey’s decision has been mixed, with some surprised he wouldn’t take advantage of the new tour minimum that would require he add as few as three events to his schedule if he were to qualify for both the Ryder Cup and the Olympics, which will count as official starts next year.

Some even viewed Casey’s decision as a product of lingering ill will toward the European Ryder Cup system, after he was passed over for a spot by Colin Montgomerie in 2010 when Casey was ranked seventh in the world.

“When you put so much into the Ryder Cup and feel like you should be on the team and you get let down like that, maybe that's harboring some of his decision-making to this day,” Justin Rose told ESPN UK recently.

Casey quickly dismissed that notion on Saturday.

“No, that never even crossed my mind,” he said. “The Ryder Cup was never even discussed.”

For Casey it was a relatively straightforward, if not emotional, decision to keep his focus on the U.S., where he turned a corner in 2015 with eight top-10 finishes and his second trip to the Tour Championship, where he finished tied for fifth place.

Still, the competitive benefits for a player who has been beset in recent years by injury and off-course distractions remain secondary to Casey’s primary motivation.

“I’ve approached it purely selfishly from a family point of view,” Casey said. “Lex has really changed my life and I want to spend as much time with him and Pollyanna as I can. It’s a tough decision, but one that I live with.”

Casey’s frustration with some of the reaction is evident, but for a man who was reportedly in tears when he learned he’d been snubbed by Montgomerie in 2010, there is a sense that things won't always stay this way.

“I have said that part of the reason I dropped out of the top 50 was that I was trying to play both tours,” Casey said. “There was talk that if I got back in the top 50 I would rejoin, but I always said, ‘maybe.’

“It’s still a maybe, but something has to give. I would love to, I really would. Some of my best moments, experiences were on the European Tour and the Ryder Cup.”

Until then, he’s content letting his play speak for itself and keeping his focus as close to home as possible.