The Anthony Kim experiment will take a long time to yield definitive results

Mark McGowan

Anthony Kim (Photo by Matthew Harris/LIV Golf)

Mark McGowan

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Six months after winning his first PGA Tour title at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, Will Zalatoris withdrew from the field on Masters week, sitting on the sidelines for seven months before returning to action at the Hero World Challenge in early December.

Back issues are obviously troublesome for an elite golfer, particularly one who puts the amount of torque into a swing as the diminutive yet devastatingly powerful 27-year-old, but he’d had surgery, taken time to recuperate and was back in 100% health when he teed it up in the ‘hit and giggle’ in the Bahamas.

And he finished dead last. Not just by a shot or two, dead last by nine. Ok, so he only had 19 that he could beat, but it just goes to show that knocking off the rust can take a while, even for one of the best ball-strikers in the game. Within four starts in 2024, he was back in the hunt on Sunday, and not just at any old PGA Tour event, at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, with the likes of McIlroy, Scheffler, Spieth, Thomas, Cantlay, basically all the big hitters in the field.

Anthony Kim’s six-over on day one at LIV Jeddah is sure to get the sniggers going as he props up the 54-man leaderboard, but anybody who was expecting anything else was being extremely optimistic. If seven months is a long time in golf, 12 years is an eternity. It doesn’t matter how many 66s he’s been shooting in practice rounds at his home club – not that there’s been talk of 66s, I’m just assuming here – playing with a scorecard that you have to put your signature to is a whole new ball game.

Let’s face it, the fact that he’s been given the opportunity on LIV is entirely based on reputation and on LIV’s desire to draw additional interest. And it worked. I’ve seldom tuned in to the opening round of a LIV event, and I know I’m not alone there. You only needed to have a quick browse on social media platforms to see that a large portion of the golf media and golfing diehards were tuned in too.

On merit alone, he’d be coming back to play mini-tour golf, and the route back to regular PGA Tour competition, if he ever actually made it back on Tour, would be long, bumpy and at 38, a race against time as well.

Realistically, the only reason he’s back playing is that it’s a free shot. He’s obviously being paid enough to trump his insurance policy – reportedly worth $10 million that is now void and due to be repaid – and even 10 consecutive last-place finishes would see him collect $500,000 in prize money, in addition to any other endorsements that he signs in the meantime.

Can he do it? Can he be competitive again? Your guess is as good as mine.

The first iteration of Anthony Kim saw him competing against a prime Tiger Woods, prime Phil Mickelson, fledgling Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson and a collection of other stars who flirted with superstardom but never really made the leap permanent. Now, even on LIV, he’s up against Jon Rahm, who will be a similar dominant force on LIV as Tiger Woods was on the PGA Tour, DJ, Brooks Koepka, Cameron Smith, Joaquin Niemann and possibly several others who would all have been certain top-10 players had their 2024 versions been dropped into the 2006-2010 era PGA Tour.

Kim probably has no idea if he’s capable of competing at this level again, and if he has no idea, then how is anybody else supposed to know?

Nobody was sounding alarm bells and deeming Will Zalatoris finished when he hacked it round Albany back in December. There’s even less reason to do it for Kim.

If nothing else, it’s a science experiment. A speculative one, but it’s an experiment that I’m curious to see unfold.

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