ORLANDO, Fla. – Anthony Kim could feel a change of momentum coming before teeing it up Thursday morning at the start of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“I haven’t felt that comfortable on the first tee for a long time,” Kim said after opening with a 3-under-par 69. “Been working really hard at actually just keeping out of my own way, and even though that should be the easiest thing for a professional golfer, it’s the hardest.”
After a promising fall run in Asia late last year, Kim opened this year struggling. He arrived at Bay Hill having missed four cuts in six starts with one withdrawal. His only check this season came with a tie for 42nd at the Honda Classic.
“I've been running my head into a brick wall,” Kim said. “So I moved away from the brick wall, and now I can swing and make some birdies out here.”
Kim, 26, made five birdies, a hole-in-one, four bogeys and eight pars in the first round.
Kim’s ace at the 17th hole was his first in a PGA Tour event. He holed a 5-iron from 203 yards.
With a hot start, Kim raced to the early lead at 5-under. He stumbled coming home with bogeys at two of his last three holes, but he was more than pleased with his start.
“I’m doing all the right things to get me closer,” Kim said. “Getting the ball in the hole is not an issue. Getting the ball off the tee the last two years has been a struggle.”
Kim recorded a career-low two top-10 finishes in PGA Tour events last year. He slumped to 87th on the PGA Tour money list, his lowest finish in his five seasons. The slide goes back directly to Kim’s thumb surgery in May 2010. After a strong start that year, Kim needed surgery to repair a ligament tear in his left thumb. After three months away, he made his comeback at the WGC-Bridgestone in a desperate bid to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team. He came back too soon. His thumb wasn’t ready, and his swing suffered.
While he said he's over the thumb injury, Kim said he’s still remedying the bad habits he created playing with the injury. He is going back to a fade as his preferred ball flight, but it has taken some work.
“I’m seeing a lot of progress,” Kim said.