He really, really needs to play the four rounds.
After not teeing it up for even a single hole for the past three months while recovering from surgery to repair ligament damage in his left thumb, Kim doesn’t know what to expect.
“I have four days of golf guaranteed, even if I shoot 110,” he said on Tuesday. “I haven’t played much golf, but I’m excited to be here.”
Kim’s thumb was hurting when he won the Houston Open, and when he finished third at the Masters. It reached a point where he knew he had to do something about the injury. The biggest risk was dropping in the Ryder Cup standings because one of his primary goals the rest of the year is making the U.S. side.
“At Quail Hollow I started feeling like other parts of my body were breaking down because of my thumb, and I was starting to compensate. Just to prevent any further damage anywhere else, I wanted to get it taken care of,” he said. “But 100 percent I wanted to be back for the Ryder Cup and try to do as much as I can to make that team. I think the timing was right.”
Kim was No. 2 in the U.S. rankings when he had the surgery on May 5. He’s only dropped to fifth despite the time away.
“To even fall to No. 5 isn’t a great feeling, but I know I can take care of that with some good play and not worry about that,” he said.
Just a couple of hours after he came out of surgery, he called U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin. He tried to make his case to not be forgotten while he was out.
“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,”’ he said.
Kim didn’t do anything terribly dramatic or adventurous during his sabbatical. He hung around his house in Dallas with his friends, spent a lot of time with his mother and got a new French bulldog named Deebo.
“It was nice to spend time with my mom, and it was nice to spend time with my dog and be at home and just be a normal 25-year-old kid who gets to hang out at the house,” he said. “It’s been very nice for me to be at home and not worry about what’s going on in the golf world and just relax. And then come out here with a fresh attitude.”
It’s clear that he didn’t pay much attention to what happened in golf while he was away. He said he hadn’t seen much about the recent 59s shot in competition on the PGA Tour (by Paul Goydos in the first round of the John Deere and Stuart Appleby on Sunday in the final round of the Greenbrier). He had never heard of South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen before he coasted to victory in the British Open two weeks ago. And he wasn’t aware that international players had won 16 of the 33 tour events overall and 11 of the last 15.
Now Kim is hoping to get back in the groove, week by week, while proving himself to Pavin.
“It doesn’t feel like I’m hitting it as hard as I would if I had a couple more weeks, but I hit about 10 drivers yesterday and it doesn’t feel like I have the same pop,” he said. “But it’s going straight, which hasn’t been the case the whole year. Just to have my thumb attached to my hand has been a plus.”