On Tuesday I had the chance to spend a half hour on the phone with Anthony Kim for an upcoming magazine feature.
I find Kim fascinating, and not just because he seems to have all the elements to actually challenge Tiger Woods — attitude, distance, charisma — but because he’s different than most PGA Tour pros. He recognizes there’s a showmanship element to the game and plays it up — right down to the belt buckle.
He’s also been very honest about his personal struggles. In a Sports Illustrated story he spoke about the distractions in his rookie year, and how he spent too many hours having a good time and not focusing on golf. In contrast, consider how careful most top pros are with disclosing many personal details.
Consider this from the story:
A year ago during his rookie season? You wouldn’t believe Kim was riding anywhere but down, considering how he spent his days and nights. Vodka was his drink of choice, the practice range a foreign land. “I’d go right from the course to the bar,” he says.
He played several rounds on Tour hung over, others on 45 minutes of sleep. In his professional debut at the 2006 Valero Texas Open he tied for second and figured he had the pro game licked. “Worst thing that could have happened to me,” Kim says.
The whispering campaign on Tour began: If only that kid worked harder. Damn, is he cocky.
“Man, you’re a professional golfer,” Veroulis told him. “You might want to think about going about this differently.”
Kim didn’t. Last spring and summer were one long frat party, with Kim traveling on his own and making new friends in every city.
Kim toned that down and had a huge breakthrough. Last year he had eight Top 10 finishes and made nearly $5M on the course, and then becoming one of the leading lights at the Ryder Cup. It all looked to be coming together, right down to the second-place finish at the Mercedes at the top of this season.
It hasn’t gone according to plan. He has only one Top 10 this year — his first tournament — and has been remarkably erratic. That’s led some TV commentators to ask what is wrong with Kim. He recognizes the year has not gone according to plan:
“It has been a frustrating year for everyone,” he says, listing off his sponsors, coaches, etc. “I think the biggest thing I have not been is as patient as I’d like to be. I’ve not played up to my potential.”
Last year Kim says his game was in a rhythm — but that has disappeared this year.
“Maybe I’m firing at too many pins,” he explains. “But at the same time I’m an aggressive player — that is what I’m going to do. Last year I had a smile on my face and I need to get that back.”
He said too many putts have lipped out: “It would be less frustrating if they missed the hole entirely.”
We covered off a number of other topics that I’ll bring up in the feature. Needless to say, I found Kim intriguing, though perhaps too willing to thank his sponsors — namely RBC — at every opportunity. Interesting to note that when I asked whether a company like RBC would have been prudent to gamble on him during his rookie year — when the party never ended — Kim says that might not have been wise. Two years later, he says he might not be mature, “but I’m getting there.”
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Kim says he’ll be coming to the Canadian Open for the foreseeable future.