Sure, Tiger Woods has wasted three-quarters of a major season on courses that he once owned, I can’t help but think that it’s Anthony Kim who is missing out on a really special year.
Kim’s Sunday charge on the back nine at Augusta rivaled Phil Mickelson’s thrills. Kim drove worse than a drunk at the Shell Houston Open, yet he still won. In the last five tournaments he played, he had four top 7s — including a win. And he did all that with a mangled thumb that prevented him from doing much more than warming up before a round.
How good was Kim’s start? He returns for next week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after a three-month layoff recovering from thumb surgery, and he’s still 4th in the Ryder Cup standings (Woods is 8th) and 9th in the FedEx Cup standings. And while Kim has only played 35 rounds this year, he also has the second-best scoring average in relation to the field. He’s No. 1 in scoring average using more traditional stat tracking, although his small sample size doesn’t qualify for the PGA Tour lead.
Of course, there is a difference between a nice start to the season and a career year. We haven’t heard much from early season winners Ryan Palmer and Bill Haas.
But this year, everything could have been sunshine, lollipops and rainbows for Kim. Mickelson never took off after winning the Masters. Woods has never looked so beatable. The U.S. and British Opens were won by two players without majors.
Does Kim’s game fit the U.S. Open? Not the way he drives the ball, although he’s never finished worse than 26th. But his game certainly would have been an intriguing match at the Old Course.
We’ve seen the talent-tease before. Kim broke out in 2008 with two big wins and a rock star showing at the Ryder Cup. He finished sixth on the money list, making $4,656,265. But Kim failed to build on that mojo with an unfocused 2009, going winless, globetrotting for appearance fees and finishing just 39th on the money list.
But this time feels different. Not because he has his entourage watching out for him, but because it’s Ryder Cup season. Just before Kim had surgery on his thumb, he called up U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Corey Pavin to make his pitch for a spot on the team.
“I told him, ‘Listen to this and I’m done, I won’t bother you again. I want to play on your team so bad that the reason I played hurt is to make the team. I promise you if you put me on the team, I’m going to have a good attitude going over there. I’m the kind of player you want.’ “
The Ryder Cup’s still two months away. He’s held his ground in the standings. He still has a chance to win a major (can’t rule it out since he played so well without practice earlier this year), and in this wild year of parity, he’s still a front-runner in the FedEx Cup. Kim could even get into the discussion for Player of the Year.
I guess this can still be a special year for what looks to be a motivated Kim after all.