Anthony Kim won twice, starred in the Ryder Cup and climbed to No. 6 in theworld ranking. That was two years ago, and it would seem the 24-year-oldAmerican would strive to get back to that level.
But as he makes his U.S. PGA Tour debut this week in Los Angeles, Kim isaiming higher.
“After the year I had two years ago, even though people said it was abreakout year, I don’t feel like I did anything super special,” Kim said onTuesday. “I would like to do something super special this year.”
And what does he have in mind?
“Win golf tournaments,” he said. “Nobody cares if you finish in the top10.”
Even before Tiger Woods took his indefinite break, Kim thought he’d getplenty of attention in what could be a pivotal year to determine whether hemakes the most of his talent or makes excuses.
For a guy like Kim, it’s a backhanded compliment when the U.S. PGA Tourrefers to his 2009 season in the media guide this way: “Despite failing toreach the career-best numbers he posted in 2008, (he) still managed to finishNo. 35 in the FedEx Cup standings.”
Kim said his only entourage this year will be his personal assistant, caddieand occasionally his swing coach, another change from having a posse of friendswith him at most tournaments.
He already has managed to be in the news this year. Kim became the scapegoatfor the Bob Hope Classic’s weak field when he was among nine U.S. PGA Tourplayers who took releases to play in Abu Dhabi. All nine were European Tourmembers, six of them were Europeans. Kim took heat as the only American, not tomention a kid who went to high school not far from the tournament.
Kim offered no apologies, saying that he will be playing more U.S. PGA Tourevents than the 22 he played last year.
“We’re trying to grow the game everywhere. It’s not just about the PGATour,” he said. “If golf grows on the European Tour, in Asia, that only helpsthe PGA Tour. That’s where I wanted to start my season.”
Scott McCarron , who seems to be in the news a lot these days, was amongthose who criticized Kim for skipping the Hope. Perhaps it was just acoincidence, but Kim ran into McCarron on Sunday in the Palm Springs, Californiaarea.
He said McCarron tried to explain what he meant in his comments, althoughKim didn’t seem terribly interested.
“I saw what Scott said. He’s on the player board (Players AdvisoryCouncil), and his opinion got out in the media more than it usually would, orwould at all,” Kim said. “I saw him a couple of days ago, briefly. Hementioned something about it. But he really didn’t bring it up to me, so therewas really nothing for me to say to him.”
Going into a pivotal year, Kim is mainly interested in delivering a messagethrough his scores.
STICKING WITH WHAT WORKS: Steve Stricker was a rising American star in 1996when he won twice and finished No. 4 on the U.S. PGA Tour money list.Endorsement offers followed, Stricker changed clubs and it was a contributingfactor to his plunge into obscurity.
Even in the midst of a great revival, Stricker is mindful not to repeathistory.
He has stuck with Titleist while climbing to No. 3 in the world ranking andbecoming a staple on Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams. And he is hesitant tofix what’s not broken.
Stricker is still using the 755 irons, which he first began using four yearsago. Titleist has come out with two new versions from that model of irons, yetStricker isn’t about to change. He even has duct tape on one club where aplastic label has come off.
“I have a hard time coming off the years I had and changing something,”Stricker said.
Not that he’s unwilling to try. Stricker had the new Titleist AP2 irons inhis bag at the Chevron World Challenge in December and shot a 65 in the finalround at Sherwood to finish 10th. When he arrived in Hawaii, his old clubs wereback in play.
“I’m kind of snakebit from 13 years ago,” Stricker said. “I’m verycautious to change.”
DALY DOINGS: John Daly already has received two sponsor exemptions on theU.S. PGA Tour this year. Pebble Beach is not one of them.
The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am has one of the more peculiar criteria.It takes winners of the tournament, the four majors and The Players Championshipdating to 2005—and all such winners before 2000.
Daly qualifies because of his majors (1991 and 1995), while Todd Hamilton (2004 British Open) does not. Matt Gogel (now retired) would not be eligible forwinning Pebble in 2002, while Brett Ogle would be eligible for winning in 1993.
Daly, meanwhile, said on Twitter that his partner next week would be DallasCowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
VOTAW DIVORCED: Less than four years after Ty Votaw married Sophie Gustafsonof Sweden, whom he began dating while still commissioner of the U.S. LPGA Tour,the couple has divorced.
According to records in St. Johns County, Florida, the marriage wasdissolved on Jan. 25, and the judge ordered the case sealed a day later. Votawis the U.S. PGA Tour’s chief spokesman, who also spearheaded the successful bidto get golf back in the Olympics. Gustafson has 23 victories worldwide and hasplayed on the last seven Solheim Cup teams.
Votaw took on some controversy and even a U.S. LPGA board review of therelationship (it saw no conflict) when he began dating Gustafson in 2002 afterhis first marriage ended in divorce. He retired as U.S. LPGA commissioner in2005, and they married in June 2006.
Contacted by e-mail, Votaw declined to comment.
DIVOTS: Ben Crane has three U.S. PGA Tour trophies, two of them collector’sitems—the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee and AT&T Classic outside Atlantano longer exist. … The Royal Bank of Canada is expanding its golf sponsorship,adding personal endorsements with Fred Couples , Luke Donald and Morgan Pressel.RBC already had deals with Anthony Kim, Mike Weir and Stephen Ames .
STAT: The first four U.S. PGA Tour events have been decided by one shot. Thelast time that happened was in 2002, when two of those events were decided inplayoffs.