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“This week will only be my sixth tour event this year, so in many ways, this week really now is the start of my season,” Casey said. “The shoulder injury has meant a lot of time away from the game. But I’m coming back, firmly believing that if I can get going I can still qualify and make the European team.

“It’s going to be a case of winning golf tournaments and that’s all I will focus on, and I refuse to focus on the alternative.”

The alternative would be the same one he had last week at the U.S. Open _ staying home to watch on television.

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SILVER MEDAL AND A FOOTNOTE: Michael Thompson had the lowest opening round (66) and closing round (67) at the U.S. Open. It was that 75-74 in the middle that cost him at The Olympic Club, although he did earn a footnote in history.

Thompson is the only player to be runner-up at the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open on the same golf course. He lost in the championship match to Colt Knost at Olympic in 2007.

He also earned $695,916, and that’s at least a head start toward getting into the next major. The British Open takes the top two players (not already eligible) from a special PGA Tour money list that includes The Players Championship and the five tournaments through The Greenbrier Classic. Thompson leads that list at $718,412, with St. Jude Classic runner-up John Merrick next at $604,800.

Both can be overtaken by someone not already eligible winning the next three weeks.

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TEN-SHOT RULE: USGA executive director Mike Davis often cites the 1996 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills when talking about the 10-shot rule in making the cut, which now has been eliminated. That was the year 108 players made the cut, and the final round began shortly before 7 a.m.

But only four times since 1996 has that 10-shot rule even been necessary. Otherwise, the top 60 and ties included everyone within 10 shots of the lead going into the weekend. The exceptions were in 1997 at Congressional, 2001 at Southern Hills, 2005 at Pinehurst No. 2 and 2008 at Torrey Pines.

The highest number of players to make the cut since Oakland Hills was 83 on three occasions _ most recently in 2010, when they all finished among the top 60 and ties, anyway. The smallest field was at Bethpage Black in 2009, when 60 players made the cut.

Had the 10-shot rule been used at Olympic Club this year, an additional 22 players would have made it to the weekend, expanding the field to 94 players.

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RETURN OF INKSTER: Juli Inkster is returning to golf a lot sooner than she had planned.

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