Anthony Kim return – Extra juice for LIV or nothing more than a sideshow?

Mark McGowan

Anthony Kim at the 2008 Ryder Cup (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

Feature Interviews

Latest Stories

It’s been almost a dozen years since Anthony Kim disappeared off the face of the golfing world when he withdrew after one round of the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, and as the years passed, he seemed destined to never hit a competitive ball again.

Not being an American, it’s a little hard to understand the hype and the legend, but us Europeans have been blessed with Ryder Cup heroes, players who seemingly rose above themselves on the biggest of occasions and helped spur their team to victory. Ian Poulter is a prime example. The US fans, on the other hand, have had few wins to celebrate and even fewer individual heroes from within those winning sides.

Patrick Reed in 2016 could’ve been one, but, you know, he was Patrick Reed. Unlikable to even his own countrymen, he wasn’t quite marmite which has roughly a 50/50 love/hate divide, he was black licorice, a food that only a mother or a psychopath could enjoy. 2021 saw Dustin Johnson go five-and-oh, but DJ was already beloved and besides, he could just as easily have gone oh-and-five and he’d still have sauntered along with the same ‘couldn’t give a f**k’ demeanour, which is partly why he was so beloved in the first place.

No, Kim was different. Kim had DJ’s swashbuckling, aggressive style of play, he had Reed’s pumped-up and probably OTT manner of celebration, and he had Poulter’s knack of getting under the opposition’s skins, so it’s no wonder the Americans loved him, and that was before his off-the-course antics for which the legend grew.

You see, Kim was a party animal. Well, a relative party animal at least. It’s hard to picture Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Kenny Perry or Justin Leonard – all teammates of Kim in 2008 – letting their collective hair down, so anybody that stays out past midnight could be deemed a tearaway in comparison, but Kim was young, he liked alcohol, he liked gambling, and he liked ‘bling,’ the latter best exemplified with his large, personalised belt buckles and flashy clothing. A colourful character both on and off the course.

He made it through PGA Tour Q-School in 2006, earning his card for the 2007 season, and was a two-time PGA Tour winner before celebrating his 23rd birthday in 2008, qualifying outright for the Ryder Cup team and apparently requesting to go out first in the singles with the expectation that Europe would send out Sergio Garcia in the number one position and promising to deliver. They did, and he did, beating Sergio 5&4 in a dominant display, then did something similar at the Presidents Cup in 2009.

Earlier that year, making his Masters debut, he eventually finished tied for 20th but set an Augusta National record in making 11 birdies in a single round – a record that stands to this day – and then followed up with a third place finish in 2010 behind Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood. A tie for fifth behind Darren Clarke at the 2011 Open Championship would be his penultimate major appearance, and he’d begin 2012 with four missed cuts and four ‘WD’s in 10 starts, not finishing inside the top 40 once and disappearing altogether after Quail Hollow.

Rumour abounded that his injuries had triggered a $10 million insurance clause and he’d cashed out, a claim that he’d forfeit and have to repay if he ever hit another professional shot again. $10 million is a lot of money in anybody’s language, but for a talented and marketable young golfing superstar, even 12 years ago, it’s nothing that three good years wouldn’t cover.

So why did he walk away? Did he really think that the Achilles injury had left him unable to compete? Did he see $10 million for doing no ‘work’ as too good an offer to turn down? Did his lifestyle get the better of him? Who knows.

But now he’s back – or at least he will be at LIV Golf Jeddah next week, so it’s safe to assume that he’s being compensated to the tune of $10 million at least, with the added bonus of being able to earn additional income, but at 38, and with a dozen years on the sideline, can he possibly be competitive and how competitive could he be?

The game has changed, and even though he was one of the prototypes for the modern day ‘bomb and gouge’ player, few of the pioneers have been able to stand the test of time, even with regular competition and targeted training.

No one knows what Kim’s been doing. Maybe he’s spent the last decade working on his game in secret, maybe he’s only recently picked up a club for the first time in years, either way, his return adds juice to an event that has been sorely lacking in the past two editions.

You could even make the argument that that’s what the PGA Tour did when Tiger Woods was added to the field at the Genesis Invitational last week. Did anybody really think that Tiger would be near the top of the leaderboard? Did anybody really think that at 48, broken-bodied and with no competitive fine-tuning, he’d be a relative factor in the event? But did anybody think that they’d rather not have him there? No, of course not. Even an uncompetitive Woods is better than no Woods at all.

So does Kim’s presence heighten the respectability of a league that’s already being criticised for being gimmickly and lacking real competition? No, of course not, but his inclusion doesn’t really take away from it either.

It’s entertainment after all.

So entertain us!

Stay ahead of the game. Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest Irish Golfer news straight to your inbox!

More News

Leave a comment

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy & Terms of Service apply.