I’m not American so I’ve never understood the obsession. Yet a big part of me appreciates the enigma that has become Anthony Kim.
In my time covering golf, there are two players I’ve never been able to fully wrap my head around: Michelle Wie West and 2008 Ryder Cup star Kim. Both had oodles of talent and were understandably branded ‘phenoms’ by the American golf press. But injuries and, later, mystery would rob both from going on to become the players many thought they would be.
In Australia, when an athlete fails to reach their potential, a negative tone seems to follow them for eternity (think Greg Norman and Augusta National). It’s not one of our most endearing features as sports fans. In Kim’s case, however, his brief time at the top didn’t bring cries of ‘underachiever’. In fact, it only heightened the love and mystique of the man, particularly in his homeland.
A three-time PGA Tour winner by the age of 23, Kim – now 37 – hasn’t struck a competitive shot since 2012 after teasing us all with his Tiger-like gameplay. Reported to be staying away from the sport due to a large insurance payout, ‘AK’ sightings have become rarer than an albatross, but when they do happen (generally at charity functions), social media goes into full meltdown.
As the PGA Tour and LIV Golf continue to lock horns in golf’s tour war, the name ‘Kim’ hasn’t gone unmentioned. A quick search on Twitter while writing this confirms what the people, apparently, still want.
“Bring back Anthony Kim and I’ll never watch another PGA Tour event again,” tweets Zac Frazier.
“Hey @LIVGolfInv, you’re not a real thing unless you sign Anthony Kim,” adds Kelsey Nicole.
Even respected golf scribe Robert Lusetich weighed in on the chatter. “Anyone else wondering how much #LIVGolf cash AK is holding out for? If Ancer’s worth (reportedly) $65 million to them, AK’s $20 million insurance payout is mere chump change. He could actually draw eyeballs. Will the Saudis make it rain?”
If the reports of that insurance payout are indeed true, it could be said the PGA Tour lost Kim to an offer he couldn’t refuse – the exact scenario the PGA Tour currently faces with its players being made mind-blowing offers from the bottomless pits of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit. Imagine the irony if lightning were to strike twice, and Kim joined Norman’s rival circuit?
Cue the PR circus.
Now, clearly, several things would need to happen for this to even be the slightest chance of becoming a reality – the legalities and implications around Kim’s alleged payout, his physical readiness to actually factor in a professional golf tournament, not to mention LIV Golf having any shred of interest in a player that has become more myth than matter of fact.
“Don’t follow the Kim talk. There are plenty of other real-time opportunities,” a source close to LIV Golf tells me.
Yet one thing cannot be denied: Kim would get people tuning in around the star-spangled states of America – a market that clearly remains LIV Golf’s most difficult PR battle to win.
In a race for eyeballs, Kim could literally hit it sideways and still reign supreme. The Yanks love him unconditionally. Finally unlocking the mystery of his existence would dominate headlines around the world, and not just in golf circles.
He mightn’t reel off 11 birdies in one round like he did at the 2009 Masters. He probably won’t stumble home blind drunk a few hours before his tee-time, as Australia’s Robert Allenby claimed he did after AK dusted him 5-and-3 at the 2009 Presidents Cup.
What he would do is only as Anthony Kim – the man, the myth, the legend – can do: capture the imagination of a parochial audience that, for reasons unexplained, has never been able to let him go.