Kim hopes to get his game back at Quail Hollow

By Doug FergusonMay 1, 2012, 10:16 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The practice range at Quail Hollow was filled with PGA Tour players Tuesday afternoon, making it too busy for Anthony Kim.

He took his game - or what's left of it - behind a row of trees near the short-game area where no one could watch. He found a patch of grass where he could fire shots through a wide gap in the trees, and Kim stayed there for nearly two hours under a hot sun.

Kim didn't want anyone to watch. And he didn't want to hear the whispers that have followed him for the last four months.

What's wrong with this guy?

He attributes it to nagging injuries - the left thumb that was operated on in 2010 and cost him a spot on the Ryder Cup team, right elbow, right wrist. There is no structural damage and nothing to keep him from playing, though he is losing practice time.

And it shows.

Kim has completed only two of the nine tournaments he has played. He has missed the cut four times. He was disqualified after opening with a 78 at Riviera. He withdrew from the last two tournaments he played, after a 79 in the first round at Houston and midway through the opening round in San Antonio, after he hit a 5-iron out of a bush, without realizing there was a rock next to his ball. Kim said the ball went 200 yards, and the rock went 15 yards.

Kim said his caddie cleaned out his locker at the Texas Open, when he pulled out. He didn't feel like facing other players, who would see him leaving a tournament far too early.

''I hear it all the time ... across the locker room doors,'' Kim said. ''I hear people, 'What is going on with him?' I hear little comments. 'He doesn't care about golf.' Everyone has a reason. No one knows the reason but me. I need to hit balls, practice. But I'm hurting myself by hitting more balls.''

He is No. 210 on the money list with $33,960. In his first five seasons on Tour, he averaged $107,585 per tournament. If he doesn't turn it around soon, Kim is in danger of losing his card.

He is well aware of this. It's one thing to hear it from the players. Kim even heard from his mother.

''My mom told me, 'Hey, there's a caddie that said he made $60,000 caddying at my club. The caddie stays at home and works four days a week. He's made $60,000. You've only made $30,000,' '' Kim said. ''I couldn't do anything but laugh.''

Laughter has been rare this year.

Kim was not eligible for the Masters. He is not exempt for the U.S. Open. Tuesday was the first time he hit balls since he withdrew from the Texas Open. After one swing, he clutched his right elbow. There was a duck-hook with the driver, another shot that resembled a shank. The other shots were mostly good, though Kim said he still feels a jolt in his elbow even after hitting wedges.

''My body feels like it's coming back, and then there's one little thing after another,'' he said. ''It's been a frustrating year. I'm trying to have a good attitude, but it gets tougher and tougher.''

It's hard to believe that only four years ago, Kim was being heralded as a rising star. He won Quail Hollow by five shots for his first Tour win, then won the AT&T National two months later to become the first American under 25 since Tiger Woods to win at least twice in one season. At the Ryder Cup that year, he was the catalyst in a rare American victory.

That's becoming a distant memory. Reasons are starting to sound more like excuses.

''I feel closer than everyone thinks,'' Kim said. ''I don't see why I can't go out there and shoot in the mid-60s every day. I know the golf I have played has been closer to 80 than 60. But I don't feel that much different.''

Everything about him is different, though.

He no longer has a bag deal, so Kim is using a red carry bag that says ''Oklahoma Sooners,'' a bag typically seen at college tournaments. He no longer has a big entourage. He has lost some of his swagger, though the 26-year-old Kim is engaging as ever, quick to smile and delightful when he's around kids.

His mother, who showed a sense of humor with the dig about the club caddie, remains his biggest fan. She rarely comes to tournaments and cares only that her son is happy, even if he wants to stop playing golf and come home to Los Angeles.

What made her remind Kim that he could lose his card?

''She doesn't think I think enough,'' Kim said, and he didn't argue that point. ''She has to do it for both of us.''

Kim probably should take more time off, especially if he's feeling minor pain in his elbow when he swings the club. He wants to get his thumb checked out next week when he has a day off at The Players Championship. He was concerned that when he struck that rock at the Texas Open, he felt pain in both hands.

''I need to play. I want to play,'' he said. ''And obviously I need to get it going pretty soon.''

Despite an atrocious start to the season, he says his injuries are more physical than mental. Sure, his confidence has suffered, but he had enough in the first place so the tank is not empty.

Besides, the Wells Fargo Championship is important to him. This is where he won for the first time, setting the tournament record at 16-under 272.

''That was the start of my career,'' he said. ''Hopefully, I can start a new one here.''

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."