Hawk's Nest: Anthony Kim, where have you gone?

By John HawkinsApril 28, 2014, 2:30 pm

It wasn’t the roughest winter I’ve ever experienced in the great northeast, but it definitely has been the longest – and I’m not entirely sure it’s over. My aging bones are sick of the cold. My golf ball is shivering, my handicap is bloated, and my long-sleeve undershirts are begging for a day off.

Every aspect of the game is laborious in two clubs of breeze on a 47-degree afternoon. Without sufficient evidence of blood flow in my hands, my chances of making a 6-footer are lower than the temperature. A left-to-right crosswind turns me into a 15 handicap. Any chip to within 10 feet of the hole is cause for celebration, as the skating rink we call a golf course simply has no tolerance for a creaky-jointed chopper.

In two months, I’ll be whining about the humidity, but until then, a sweat-soaked baseball cap sounds pretty good.

SIX YEARS HAVE now passed since Anthony Kim roared to the center of the universe as golf’s Next Big Thing. A five-stroke victory over a premium field at Quail Hollow in May 2008 was as loud as arrivals get, and when Kim won the AT&T National nine weeks later, you couldn’t help but think America’s best player might be a 23-year-old kid of Asian descent and immense ability. 

Tiger Woods had just undergone knee surgery. Phil Mickelson hadn’t won a major title in 27 months, and besides, the game’s populace almost seemed desperate for a splash of fresh young blood. Kim made more big noise at the Ryder Cup that fall, partnering successfully with Mickelson before destroying Sergio Garcia in the first match of the Sunday singles.

This week’s gathering at Quail Hollow also marks another anniversary – Kim hasn’t played a hole on the PGA Tour in precisely two years. He withdrew from the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship after a first-round 74, announced he was taking five months off because of tendinitis in his left arm, and then tore his Achilles while working out in San Diego about six weeks later.

We haven’t seen him since.

“I’m hopeful it will be in 2014,” Kim’s agent, Clarke Jones, told me Sunday. “Anything other than that is a guess, and I don’t like to guess. He’s a marvelous talent, but it has been a long time. There’s no denying that.”

I’ve known Jones for much longer; he’s as straight-up a man as anyone in his occupation can possibly be. I sensed his reluctance to answer questions regarding Kim. Not because he’s hiding anything, but because there are no answers, no timetable, nothing to report.

Very few players generate more bewilderment on my live chats than does Kim. He is still on the radar of many, even if he remains invisible, perhaps because his meteoric rise and sharp fall were seasoned by whispers that he enjoyed his adult beverages.

Kim did nothing to dismiss the notion that he was a fan of the nightlife, leaving one with the sense that he thought he could burn the candle any way he wanted. With that in mind, I must have written it a half-dozen times: no Tour pro can be giving away strokes to the field at 2 a.m.

At this point, though, none of that really matters. Owing to rumors that Kim's disappearance is due at least in part to a suspension from the Tour, Jones made himself very clear.

“I can categorically deny that there has been any suspension,” he said. “Nothing has been done by the PGA Tour to prevent Anthony from returning.”

In search of something resembling context, I asked Jones if Kim was playing any golf, even recreationally.


Doesn’t sound like much of a comeback, if you ask me. “He’s not living under a bridge, he’s not living in a box,” Jones added. “I’m going to go see him [in Texas] in a few weeks, and at that point, I’ll get a better definition of where he stands.”

SINCE THERE’S NO time like the present, I thought it would be interesting to merge the past and future when it comes to the all-time greats winning major championships. If Woods returns from back surgery to play in the British Open, as was reported last week, he would resume his quest to surpass Jack Nicklaus’ total of 18 titles.

Tiger turns 39 in December. The thought of him winning five more majors at this point in his career is ludicrous to some, but it certainly is possible – and probably more likely than you think.

Ben Hogan won five majors after his 38th birthday. Nicklaus himself won four, and for those who wonder if Woods’ health will hold up long enough to give Jack a run, it should be pointed out that Hogan won his after getting hit by a bus at 36.

Here’s a major count among historically relevant players from the age of 38 and beyond:

• Hogan: 5 of 9 total major victories

• Nicklaus: 4 of 18

• Gary Player: 3 of 9

• Sam Snead: 3 of 7

• Lee Trevino: 1 of 6

• Walter Hagen: 0 of 11

• Tom Watson: 0 of 8

• Gene Sarazen: 0 of 7

• Arnold Palmer: 0 of 7

From a long-term perspective, the thing to remember about Woods is that his body has continued to break down, almost at an alarming rate, despite being one of the strongest and most physically fit golfers ever. Nicklaus couldn’t find the gym unless you hid his fishing rods there, but he lasted for a couple of eternities and won major titles almost a quarter of a century apart.

Tiger doesn’t play a ton of tournament golf and still gets hurt. According to the tea leaves, that is not a good sign.

ONE OF THE more memorable things I’ve seen on a practice range involved Kim and Woods at Quail Hollow before the start of the 2007 tournament. Red Shirt was hitting balls late Wednesday morning when the rookie approached, a huge grin on his face, although it took a few swings before Kim could get his attention.

“Hey Tiger, check it out!” AK gushed, showing off his belt buckle, which was roughly the size of Rhode Island and featured his initials set in diamonds. Frankly, it appeared to swiped from Liberace’s closet, but Woods seemed cautious about embarrassing the kid – several people were watching the exchange.

Tiger responded with a good-natured chuckle, and then went back to beating balls. He would win that week. Kim would win the tournament the very next year. My, how things have changed.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.