Here are a few things you might want to know about Anthony Kim as rumors of a golf comeback for AK, on some tour at some time soon, swirl about.
First, he’s the best junior golfer to ever come out of the Coachella Valley. Kim won his CIF-Southern Section Individual title in 2001 when he was a sophomore at La Quinta High School. He was done with high school golf after that year, instead focusing on his future career in golf.
Kim was brilliant at every level of golf he ever played. He was the newcomer of the year for the Big 12 his freshman season for the University of Oklahoma. He was the team’s No. 1 player as a junior, the year he left to play professionally. In the next few weeks, he finished second in the 2006 Valero Texas Open.
He was known as a stickler for the rules of the game, not one to give a two-footer in even a recreational round. He had confidence in his game to burn. But he was never one to embrace the tour lifestyle, telling me once in an interview at the Old Bob Hope Classic that he almost quit the game after his rookie year because he disliked the tour life so much.
He hasn’t played professional golf in 12 years. The last of his three tour wins came 13 years ago. He beat Sergio Garcia in singles in the Ryder Cup 15 years ago. People forget Kim was so intensely focused during that match that after he had closed Garcia out, Kim started to walk to the next hole to keep playing. Garcia had to call him back.
Kim found ways to be exciting, thrilling, confounding and brilliant on the course. In the 2009 Masters, he made 11 birdies in the second round, still a single-round record for that event. He shot 65. He was touted as the next Tiger Woods in the very era of Tiger. Yet by 26, it was over, a result of wrist and ankle injuries and a nice, plum insurance policy. Like Bo Jackson in football and baseball, golf fans were left to wonder what could have been.
Maybe now we will find out. All due respect to other golfers on tour, but the return of Anthony Kim would be one of the two or three biggest stories of the year, and perhaps the biggest story if he resembles the old AK (remember that massive belt buckle?)
In any other time, fans could be excited by the prospect of Kim’s return. Is he missing the game that he didn’t seem to miss all that much when he left 12 years ago? Is his game up to the standard of representing AK?
But as with everything in golf today, the potential return of Anthony Kim includes the prospect of a PGA Tour return vs. a LIV tour debut. The PGA Tour offers stability and a road back through a past champion’s status and sponsor’s exemptions that any tournament would be foolish not to offer. The LIV tour offers money up front, but perhaps not the kind of money a 26-year-old Kim could have demanded.
Kim has to make several decisions if he is to come back, and some of those decisions might have already been made. Is his game good enough to put on display for the public? Does he long for the traditions of the history of the PGA Tour and its four-day, 72-hole events, most with 36-hole cuts? Or does LIV’s different format of 54 holes and no cuts and team play hold an appeal, even if critics don’t believe it’s real golf?
Maybe, just maybe, Kim decides not to come back at all. Kim was always a different kind of golfer, so remaining a non-golfer wouldn’t be a surprise.
But if he does come back, at least for a while, Kim would be a red-hot story for the game.
Larry Bohannan is the golf writer for The Desert Sun. You can contact him at (760) 778-4633 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @larry_bohannan. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Desert Sun.